Thank you God for Fun Friends

My dear friend Caroline Saunders, better known as @writercaroline on social media wrote a post for me to share with you guys. She is not only one of the funniest people I know, but also a "sisterfriend" in ministry and she encourages me all the time in my walk with Jesus. She is just one of those people everyone wants to be friends with and yet not in a snobby unattainable person kind of way, but in a sincere, heart of gold kind of way.

Caroline was published in this hysterically funny book called "Same Here, Sisterfriend" and I since I am a fan of laughing, and I love my friend, I am giving away a copy! In order to win a copy, you must follow me, caroline, and sameheresisterfriend on instagram and tag a sisterfriend! (Extra entries for extra friends!!) Giveaway ends Monday at noon!

 

Here is yet another hilarious and yet serious (how does she do it) entry from my fab friend I endearingly call Carol:

Today my daughter Adelaide, who hates headbands, is wearing a headband. Why? Because Livi Jo wears one. Who is Livi Jo? A friend from preschool. And don’t even get me started on another preschool friend, Ellie Kate—Adelaide would follow Ellie Kate right off a cliff. I assume Livi Jo would be there, too, and they’d all be wearing headbands.

I’d judge my otherwise-strong-willed Adelaide for the power she gives her friends, except first of all, she’s four, and second of all, all my clothing choices for half of my life would rise up and call me hypocrite. (Looking at you, everything I ever purchased from dELiA*s!)

Our friends matter to us, don’t they? They impact a zillion choices, from headbands to music to mannerisms. Sometimes the friendship impact is dangerous, and we need to guard against it. It’s dangerous when, 1) we idolize our friends’ approval and adapt our choices in order to earn it, or, 2) we befriend people who lack integrity.

But when friendships are free from idolatry and bolstered by character, the impact is a beautiful one. God can use the influence of friends to sharpen us, strengthen us, and make our insides more beautiful. (And maybe even our outsides? I have to admit that Adelaide’s new headband look is a good one.)

We love to be spiritual about friendships. I get this, because I can think of multiple times when my friends have been the tool that God used to protect me from spiritual crisis and emotional despair. But you know what else? Friendships are fun, and sometimes we just need to have fun.

My friends do more than inspire me to love Jesus and (I’ll admit it) inspire the occasional clothing choice—they inspire me to laugh. Right now, in this insane season of toddler motherhood, this is my favorite impact my friends have on me.

When we share the absurd messiness of our kitchens, recount the horrifying embarrassment in Target, and lament potty training with the full power of our inner high school thespian, we laugh. Somehow the laughter brings our perspective into full color. The giggles remind us that the things that feel so heavy aren’t really that heavy. They remind us that even when things are heavy, we aren’t alone in them. They remind us that there’s still joy to be discovered even on the bleakest of days.

That’s why I’m glad my friends are not just godly and kind—they’re a little bit ridiculous, too. What a delight that God would orchestrate life so that we could do it together! What a miracle that He’d send His son to obliterate our devastating sin debt so that we could walk with a lightness in our step, knowing that we are covered in Jesus’s righteousness! When we link arms with our sisters who have deep affection for the gospel and a tendency to snort-laugh, we are experiencing a true gift. Thank you, God, for your overwhelming kindness to us! (And for headbands. Thank you for those, too.)

Caroline Saunders

 

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Simple Obedience = Significant Outcomes

Have you ever thought about some of the bizarre things Jesus asked His disciples to do?

Some examples include, Jesus asking the disciples to: bring Him five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd, walk on water, throw a net into the sea where they had been fishing for hours and knew there were no fish, let Him wash their feet.

I sincerely cannot imagine how strange these requests in real time really were?!

Last night we were reading a passage about Palm Sunday. In Matthew 21:1-11 it reads,

"As they approached Jerusalem...Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet...

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them."

 

It may seem normal that Jesus asked the disciples to go and get a donkey from a nearby town, but trouble could have very easily come from it. The disciples were in essence stealing a donkey and its colt...from a stranger.

Yet, the word says plainly, they obeyed. No questions asked.

Maybe all of the preceding weird requests with positive results while walking with Jesus  gave them faith for this task, them believing He was who He said He was and acting out of that.

Yes, in today’s time things are different. Jesus does not speak in an audible voice to us, but we have the Holy Spirit living in our hearts and we have the word of God, a 2,000 page book of words that the Holy Spirit had men write down for us.

He is speaking to us now, asking us to do things that may also seem bazaar, but are we listening? And even if we hear, will we have the faith like the disciples to simply obey?

The disciples had zero idea that Jesus would turn a boys five loaves and two fish into food for 5,000 with twelve baskets left over. Peter wouldn't have dreamed there was a chance Jesus could enable him to walk on water. The disciples couldn’t have fathomed that throwing a net into the sea where they had been fishing for hours and knew there were no fish, would result in them being unable to haul in the enormous about of loot....enough to almost sink their ship. And lastly, the disciples, most likely horrified at the sight of Jesus washing their feet had no foreknowledge that this small yet profound act would symbolize two monumental spiritual teachings, spiritual cleansing of the heart and servant leadership, for the next thousands of years.

What is it that stops us from obeying? For me it’s usually fear. Fear of what people will think. Fear of appearing self righteous. Fear of losing some dignity. But, when I stand before Jesus one day in heaven, the fear excuse is going to seem so insignificant. We have such a short time on earth to obey and yet an eternity with Jesus to reap the benefits.

The disciples who Jesus asked to go and fetch the donkey in the passage above would not have been believed that their act of obedience was a piece of what we now call the beginning of Holy Week and would somewhat set off a domino of events that would lead to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus---the saving of the whole world.

If God can extraordinarily accomplish His will through the disciples basic obedience, can He not through ours as well? Even if we never see on earth what our obedience: our good attitudes, our waiting well, our reaching out and loving on our neighbor or co worker accomplishes, one day we will know. One day He promises we will see it was all worth it.

What simple act of obedience is Jesus asking you to do today and what is stopping you? What has He spoken in the secret places of your heart through His word that you need to have faith to obey Him in today?

 

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!
James 1:22-24

You did not choose me, but I chose you and set you apart to go and bear fruit.
John 15:16

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.
Matthew 21:11

 

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The Church

Praying for all today as we enter this mysterious place called “the church.”

The place where we, by our very entering, exclaim, "I need help; I need people beside me and above all, I need Jesus.”

A place many feel loved, accepted, welcome, and found and a place others feel unsure, guarded, rejected, or harmed.

I am thankful for the rich community church can provide, deep friendships that catapult growth in Christ and yet, I am acutely familiar with the pain the church can cause as well.

Tish Harrison Warren says it beautifully, “I take hope in what the church will one day become-that we, (the church) despite our sin, failure, and pain, will one day be made new in Christ.”

Whether you find yourself on the loved side or the harmed side of the church, my prayer today is that we focus in on our Savior, the one who died for our sins.

In this place, our souls can offer Him a language of praise through songs with Christians around the world, and allow the spirit to open our hearts to the teaching of His word, not leaving behind our joys and sorrows but bringing them to His feet.

He is good; He is constant and He is always willing to give us more of Himself if we ask. Thankfully He sustains us with exactly what we need, many times through the joy, pain, and healing that comes from this peculiar mystery we call “the church.”

Prayer for the Unappreciated Mom

God,

You know, see, and understand all. Today, please protect my heart from feeling over-worked, unappreciated, and discouraged. God, please give me extra energy today. Remind me that “the labor I do for you is never ever done in vain and that you are delighted in servant acts done in secret.”

I’m coming to you now and begging for your help. I want to be filled with joy, peace, contentment and a servant heart. I need you Jesus; I know I cannot muster this stuff up on my own.

Lord, protect my marriage, please God. Unify my husband and I on all fronts, and when an issue comes up that threatens to disunite us, make it clear, give us eyes to see the issue for what it is and not see each other as the enemy.

Remind me that my husband is my friend, my best friend. One who has seen my ugliest flaws and loves me anyway. Enable me to look over his faults and love him deeply with “the love that covers a multitude of sins.” Give me the power to easily forget when he wrongs me, liberating my mind to give him “grace upon grace upon grace.”

Oh good Father, rid my heart of any bitterness and resentment that can creep in towards my husband. Instead of bitterness, give me a heart of contentment for the life you have given me. Holy Spirit flood my heart, filling me the things of you- joy and sweetness, a calm that seeks to comfort others.

Instead of focusing on my pain or trouble today, empower me to think on and pray for others-considering others more important that myself. Help me to apply this truth first and foremost with my family- my husband and children.  Give me the heart to joyfully serve them expecting nothing in return.

Please Father, give me the clarity of heart and mind to follow the path you have for me today. “Show me your ways, lead me in your truth, guide me Lord.” Help me not to become so task focused that I don’t see the people you want me to love on today. On the reverse, help me not to be lazy, but give me the diligence I need to complete the tasks before me, no matter how unappealing they seem. I trust you can direct me moment by moment today Lord.

And Jesus my children, give me eyes to see how much beauty my children add to my life. When I feel absolutely depleted, bring to mind the eternal value of raising children. Children who love you and want to serve you are priceless gifts; please give me everything I need to equip them for this kind of life. Remind me of how valuable it is to my children that I am available to them when they have a need, and give me small glimpses into the future, enabling me to envision what wonderful adults my children have the potential to be with their unique personalities and giftings.

Today, please Jesus help me to find the affirmation I need from you, in being obedient to the calling you have for me now. Today, please bring to mind scripture and songs that echo the message: “You are enough for me.”

God, I was recently reminded that the most valuable thing in the world is truth. I know as a stay at home mom there are many hours of brain blank space where my mind needs to focus on truth and good or it can go down slippery slope. Help me, no matter what my circumstance, to discipline my mind to dwell on truth. Grant me the discernment to decipher lies thrown my way and equip me to dispel them with your truth.

I need you every second today Jesus and I know it. Thank you for your constant presence and for the beautiful life with which you have blessed me.


Amen.

**I wrote this prayer in my previous blog as a direct response to "A Screwtape Letter for the Unappreciated Mom"

The Power that Conquered the Grave

If I’m honest, I have to say I don’t feel the power of Easter on a daily basis. Sometimes I feel defeated by sin that I despise, but I continue to do. Paul talks about this struggle in Romans 7. He says,“I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

When I think about this battle, I can get discouraged, but the lyrics to this Hillsong tune have come to mind in the last few weeks in thinking about Easter. They say,

“the same power that conquered the grave lives in us.”

In essence, these lyrics reassure us that the Holy Spirit we receive as believers has unmatchable power, power enough to bring the dead back to life. That same spirit who lives in us can change us to look more like Jesus, empowering us for day to day victory, helping us overcome anything one step at a time.

What does this look like in daily life? It looks like the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5 lived out. It looks like His spirit empowering us to love the unlovable, wanting the best for others over ourselves. It looks like His Spirit enabling us to have deep-seated joy and peace when outward circumstances make us feel like we’re living in a circus. It looks like His Spirit filling us with patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness towards the person who always says and does the wrong thing. It looks like His Spirit giving us the capacity to exercise self-control even we haven’t slept or had enough coffee. It looks like the Holy Spirit allowing us to forgive the most unforgivable offense.

It means there’s hope for our rough edges and it is never too late to change, because,

“the same power that conquered the grave lives in us.”

There are other times I can get discouraged by a friend or family member who I believe will never change. I’m encouraged by the story of Moses, a man who spent a good deal of his wilderness life praying for frustrating people. Not only did God hear his prayers, God answered His prayers even changing His mind by not destroying those frustrating people, all because of Moses’ heart to pray for those who irritated him.

We can talk to the one who has the power to change anyone because

“the same power that conquered the grave lives in us.”

And the life of a believer in God always comes full circle, when we take our irritations and frustrations to Him in prayer, He is faithful to soften our hearts and give us wisdom about what next step to take in difficult relationships. Our prayers are never wasted.

Don’t give up, on yourself or the hard person to love.

“The same power that conquered the grave lives in us.”

“And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you…” —Romans 8:11a

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.” —James 5:16-18

“‘In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.’ (Moses asked.) The Lord replied, ‘I have forgiven them, as you asked (Moses).’” —Numbers 14:19-20

“Thanks be to God, who delivers us through Jesus Christ our Lord.” —Romans 7:25

 

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Scared to Death

Have you ever been scared to death? I have. The first time God ever asked me to share about Him with a group of women, I was a wreck. Sweating. Shaking. I was a ball of nerves thinking about sprinting out of the room and never coming back.

On another note, movie night is our best loved night of the week. We snuggle up together with all the kids on our laps, and popcorn explodes in our living room (found for days to come). It is the highlight of the week for everyone. Last night we settled on “Prince of Egypt.” As I sat and watched in motion the story of the Moses from the bible come to life on our TV I was awed in a fresh way.

First and most of all, I would have never wanted to be Moses. Sheesh. He had a grueling and tedious job, much less life. Yet, the irony is, his relationship with God was unmatched in it’s richness. Why? I believe it’s because Moses constantly and consistently did the hard thing-saying “yes” to God.

My answer to the hard things God has called me to so often is, “Ok, but not right now” or “Are you sure? That does not make sense God, so that must not be what you meant.” But really, those are just excuses.

The first time God asked me to share with a group of women, I stuttered through it, and in my eyes, I completely flopped. (I really hoped I would never see anyone from that room ever again.) I told God, “I will never do this again.” In essence I was saying obedience to you isn’t what I thought it would be, so I quit.

This scenario may not be your story, but I guarantee you can relate. Whether it be making amends in a friendship, telling someone in your family how Jesus has changed your life, forgiving someone, or literally loving your neighbor, I’ll bet there has been a time in your life where God has asked you to do something beyond your comfort zone, and you just flat out didn’t want to do it. Maybe you tried and in your eyes you failed; or maybe you haven’t attempted yet, but the idea is still in the back of your head. Whatever your narrative, I know we can use the story of Moses to help inspire and empower us to obey God in the hard.

Moses was to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. Most likely Pharaoh was a family member of Moses because Moses was adopted into Pharaoh’s family at birth. Crazy. But God had asked Moses to return and to be brave to deliver his people from slavery.

And He wants to use you too, no matter what your background or qualifications.

Because remember Moses had grown up in Egypt, but as a privileged part of Pharaoh’s family, not as a slave. And also, Moses had fled because he had murdered someone AND Moses had some sort of speaking problem. The people of Israel probably resented Moses because of his upbringing. He definitely was overcome by shame at thinking of returning to the place of the murder and horrified about being a spokesman. Moses was the absolute last person we would have picked for the job of delivering the people of Israel, but God chose Him. God never picks the most qualified and likely candidate.

God delights in using the under dog, the one who knows they cannot do their task without his help.

Everyone’s purpose is different, your hard thing is never going to exactly mimic someone else’s. We all have our own path to follow and comparison will stop us in our tracks. But God calls all his people to hard things, because He wants to accomplish an extremely unique purpose through us. So, don’t give up or give in.

We never get to see the whole picture in the beginning of the story.

Tell someone you trust what is on your heart and request they keep track of you, asking what steps you have taken to get closer to obedience that week. Never does risky obedience feel easy or comfortable, but just like Moses, when we are scared but dependent on God, we know the richness in our relationship with Him makes the risk always worth it.

We may never know this side of heaven what our obedience accomplished.

 

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”
Philippians 2:13

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
1 Corinthians 1:27

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 1:6

 

Wildly Thankful

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I have had this song running through my head all day long. The lyrics are gripping and are my heart's song today:

 

"I will sing of all You've done

I'll remember how far You carried me

From beginning until the end

You are faithful, faithful to the end

 

A Father's heart that's for me

A never ending story

Of love that's always chasing me

His kindness overwhelming

And hope for me unending

He's never given up on me

 

There wasn't a day

That You weren't by my side

There wasn't a day

That You let me fall

All of my life

Your love has been true

All of my life

I will worship You"

 

FAITHFUL TILL THE END- Bethel

 

I have much to be thankful for, I'm sure like many of you. I have a wonderful husband, healthy children, rich friendships and much more, but above all I have a relationship with a faithful God. My God loves me endlessly, despite it all, and promises His faithfulness to me.

I have had excessively happy Thanksgiving holidays through the years and years where Thanksgiving day was one spent with a deeply broken heart over difficult circumstances and the realities of this broken world. Yet, no matter the aura of the day, God has been ever so faithful to me. 'There wasn't a day that He let me fall' and so today I am thankful for a relationship like none other. A relationship with the God of the universe 'whose love is always chasing me.' He cares about the details of my life and allows all, not only for His glory, but also for my good, in part to grow a relationship with me. A relationship that without the depths of deperateness would simply not be the same. 

Im thankful He hasn't give me everything I've wanted. He has given me what I've needed and He has always known with crystal clear discernment the difference. Im excessively thankful for today. It was simple, full of quality time with my people. It included much rest and peace, but I'm also thankful life hasn't always looked as wonderful as it did today, because it was in the dark that I learned how to love Him, not for what it looked like He was doing for me, but simply for who He was. 

Today, I just wanted to take a minute to publically declare His faithfulness to me, 'remembering all He's done and how far He's carried me." I am wildly thankful. 

 

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Beautiful

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30

"Attractive, Alluring, Lovely, Charming, Gorgeous, Excellent" All synonyms of the word "beautiful." Today, we talk about a Beautiful life.

A life, Shauna Neiquist says, in which "one builds their soul, more than they build anything people can see. Making sure the ground you stand on is honest and that you are spiritually satisfied in your life, not pretending or striving to be someone else. Being as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside."

"Life where no one sees being most beautiful parts of your life."

The challenge comes with the rise of social media which tempts us to: focus on building a life based predominantly on what people see or think of us and comparing or mimicking our lives after other people's lives, as if God created us cookie cutters.

How do we keep from falling into these traps? How do we put the majority of our focus on the most important things of life that no one sees?  How do we resist the propensity to compare our lives to others?

How do we live confidently encompassed in the life God has given us?

I have searched my own soul this week and I believe there are four keys to helping me live a beautiful life, and I'm hoping they can help you live one too.

I live a beautiful life when I:

1) Live ''Full of God."

Not "full of myself." When I live "full of God," I live content with whatever God has given me that day--- whether it be entertaining a hyper active 2 year old, or leading worship and hosting small group.

When I live "full of myself" I feel like God should have given me a different, a "better" task for the day.

When I live "full of God," I feel way less tempted to compare my situation to someone else's, because I am busy doing the work God has given me to do, I am focusing on the truth He has given me today, and it doesn't really matter what anyone else is doing.

It reminds me of the challenge in Proverbs that says,

"Keep your heads up, your eyes straight ahead, and your focus fixed on what is in front of you. Take care you don't stray from the straight path...don't veer off course to the right or to the left." 

2) Live with a Good Attitude. 

I want my family first and foremost to be blessed by me; if I can put on a good face for the outside world, but have a terrible attitude at home, the part of my life no one sees is crummy, while the part everyone sees is ok, I am not living a beautiful life.

A good attitude makes all the difference. Karin Conlee says, "The majority of the time, a good attitude actually boils down to just one thing: seeing life from God's perspective. We can start having God's perspective when we stop thinking about how we are affected by a situation and start asking how we can use the situation to point someone to our King." 

What can we do if we need an attitude change today? I start by journaling my prayers, even if it's on the "notes" section of my phone. I tell God why I'm frustrated then ask Him to remind me of truth that can refocus my thinking. I also call a friend or my husband and ask them to pray over me. There has never been a time prayer hasn't helped shift my attitude.

3) Live a Life of Service.

Shauna Neiquist says, "We are not voting for "most this" or "most that" in our yearbooks. This is my actual life, it doesn't matter one bit if it's lovely for someone else to live. What does matter: does it feel congruent with how God made me and called me?"

Everyone's life and calling is different, that is why I must throw off the temptation to compare. However, one common thread we all have is, everyone who is a christian is called to serve. Whether you are in the stage where your family or life situation needs service in a way that outside service for this season is somewhat impossible, or if you are able to give ample time outside the home serving in whatever capacity,

Serving is key to a beautiful life. 

Serving is following the example of Christ, it humbles and gives perspective like nothing else can. And I have learned, Jesus never quite asks us to serve in a way that feels completely comfortable. Yes, the service He calls us to might be especially fulfilling, but usually Jesus asks me to serve in a way that stretches me, making me have to depend on Him, allowing Him to "fill the gaps" instead of me relying on my own competence. 

4) Live not forgetting to Rest. 

Even the passage "Be still and Know that He is God" implies we have set aside time to 1) be still= not move 2) unrush our lives and schedules to focus on who God is and to see ourselves for who we are.

Rest is humbling. I am not God and I cannot be constantly going 24/7 or I will burn out, no matter how much I love what I am doing. God already knows this about me, that is why He, time and time again in the scripture, He speaks to the importance of the Sabbath. As much as I think I don't need a Sabbath, I do, everyone does. The world simply will not fall apart if I sit, rest, and enjoy God and life with which He has provided. 
 

*Prov 4:27

"My life is smaller, slower, simpler. My days are less complicated. I sleep better, and wake with a heart full of gratefulness. I've become able to appreciate silliness again, and subtle beauty, instead of the volume of my life being so screechingly loud only fireworks could get my attention.

I thought I would feel deep gladness if I broke my back for my work. I broke my back for my work, and all I felt was back-breaking pain...

Until I realized that the love I was looking for all along was never found in the hustle. You cannot prove it, or earn it or compete for it. You can just make space for it...You'll find it in the faces of the people who've known you all your life, who sit around your table every week, the children whose noses you kiss while they're sleeping. You'll find it in prayer.

And let me tell you where it's not: it's not in numbers---numbers in back accounts, numbers on scales, numbers on report cards or credit scores. It's never something you can calculate. It's not something you can earn or buy or hustle for. 

It's something you discover in the silence, in the roundedness, in the sacred risky act of being exactly who you are---nothing more, nothing less." 

Shauna Niequest "Present Over Perfect"