If you’ve been following the blog, you know that this post is the first in a long time! I’ve been in a season that has been challenging to share because I really have not felt that I had anything that could help to equip another.
Maybe you can relate to feeling in a season where you just keep walking, keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep trusting, and keep trying.
My three-year-old daughter in her adorableness will sometimes ask me, “Did you feel cute this morning(I seriously don’t know where she got this question, she’s so funny)?” But even funnier is that if I don’t answer, “yes” she goes, “Awww, you’re trying???”
While feeling cute has not been my biggest goal, “trying” in general is definitely an adjective I can relate to daily right now!
I love that one of God’s names is El Roi– “The God who sees”. It helps me to remember that not only Juliana can see the trying, but God does. He sees us trying, He sees us striving to surrender daily, and He also sees so much more that we do not, and He is at work in those things unseen to us, but seen to Him. In those moments that we feel like we may be at the end of ourselves, He is there and at work.
In thinking about these things, I wanted to share a verse that has been encouraging me so much…
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
This verse reminds that He is renewing us day by day. This pressing that we can see and feel is temporary, but its results are working in a way that has an impact that can be used for His glory in some way, for purposes that we may not ever truly see the full measure of.
I try to imagine in my own understanding that maybe the pressing is being used to shape me into a person that is perhaps more compassionate, more understanding, and more able to relate in gentleness to those around me. That future “me” may be able to encourage from an, “I’ve been there too, and I can tell you that God is faithful and going to walk you through this,” perspective. But that is just a small sliver of my own understanding and thoughts of how God may work these things for His glory, and if God uses any hardship to do that in my life, I am blessed.
However, I know that He is doing even more than that. His word says that it’s working a far more “exceeding and eternal weight of glory”.
The verses leading up to the last one I shared say,
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.”
2 Corinthians 4: 7-12
It is challenging for me to write about this because truly I’m not a lofty theologian by any means, but it cannot go without saying, friend, that what we have inside of us, the hope of God and His salvation, is for His purpose carried by us, even in our frailties. Even though we may feel absolutely pressed and crushed, what we feel has been felt and understood by Jesus, even unto the point of His death. And with that shared death is also life, by God’s power, shown through us. It is such a deep and beautiful concept that my mind cannot fully plunge those depths of understanding. But through Him, we can trust that even in these struggles that feel like they can bring us to death, God even more so can bring beautiful life out of.
I was reminded of this recently at a Bible study for the little kiddos in the school that I teach at. A teacher was talking about faithfulness and she used an example of a balloon popping. She first popped a balloon that nothing was inside of, and then popped another that exploded confetti everywhere, in hopes to encourage the kids to just keep being faithful, and good is sure to come. The thought of, “If I pop, I hope confetti comes out” has been crossing my mind, encouraging me, and making me laugh lately. I hope it does for you too.
I just wanted to share and hopefully encourage you friend! I do very much intend to keep updating with writings on this blog as God permits!
I hope that you are doing well! While overall, I really am well, I still can’t help but notice lately my heart is a little heavy with different burdens of life around me right now.
On top of regular day-to-day life, I feel like there are always the constant questions in the air waiting for answers. Little questions like, “What will I make for dinner, do I even have groceries for that, did I remember to call that person back, when will I have the time to write that post I was hoping to?” Big questions like, “How will we come back from this? Why did that have to happen to them? Will my loved one feel better? What is the right way to respond to all of the theories going around right now?” And then, there are the emotions behind the scenes and the worries that start to sprout up in my heart as I look at current events and think of the future. But hardest of all are the burdens of what people I love are walking through. I feel like those questions, burdens, emotions and worries are so much heavier than my actual to-do list. It can be like a track playing on repeat in the back of my mind all day.
But what can I do with those things?
If you’re anything like me, you ignore them for a while. I can normally power through and keep doing “the next right thing” as Anna from Frozen would advise. All you parents of Frozen fans know what I mean 😆. Well, that works for me and Anna for a while, but eventually, the inevitable happens, and those things start coming out of the cracks. Recently, someone I knew went through a very hard time, and the next thing I knew, I was finding myself constantly on the verge of tears. Like, all you would have to do was tell me what you had for breakfast and I might cry.
I was telling my family about it, and my sister was like, “You had better make some time to just go cry before it comes out in a bad way.” Another family member told me it sounded like I was carrying some things that I shouldn’t be. Make time to go cry? Stop carrying things that I shouldn’t be?
It was so obvious to everyone but myself. I needed to cry, and I needed to take those tears and those things that I’ve been carrying and stop carrying them. I needed to do what the Word says and cast them on Jesus. That word cast is actually a very active word. Think of casting a fishing line.The Word is telling us to throw those burdens away from ourselves and onto Jesus.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
I Peter 5:6-7
Can you relate to holding on or carrying some things that are not your burdens to bear? It’s okay to admit that we’re carrying these things that are too heavy. We need His help. He didn’t mean for us to carry them alone. If you’re like me, you may mistakenly start to think that you’re strong enough to carry them. But it’s actually prideful of me to think that way. These things belong in His hands for Him to take care of.
I’m going to straight copy and paste out of David Guzik’s commentary here because it encouraged me so much and I hope it encourages you too. He says,
“Casting all your care upon Him: True humility is shown by our ability to cast our care upon God. It is proud presumption to take things into our own worry and care about things that God has promised to take care of (Matthew 6:31-34).
Spurgeon used the illustration of a man who came to move your furniture, but he carried a huge and heavy backpack of his own. He complains that he finds it difficult to do the job of moving your furniture; would you not suggest that he would find it easier if he laid his own burden aside so that he could carry yours? In the same way, we cannot do God’s work when we are weighed down by our own burdens and worries. Cast them upon Him, and then take up the Lord’s burden – which is a light burden, and a yoke that fits us perfectly.”
Seeing myself carrying burdens in this way is so eye opening for me. By trying to carry them myself, while I think I’m helping, I’m actually hindering myself from being able to help at all. When I’m trying to carry those burdens too, I think of my hands being full and unable to really be vigilant to what’s going on around me and able to respond well (which the next few verses actually talk about!) I need to obey the Lord in surrendering those burdens to Him, where they belong.
So how do we cast our cares on Him? We come to Him and talk to Him, knowing He cares. Talk to Him about what you’ve been carrying, what you’ve been feeling; He already knows. I, personally, have to repent for my pride and for trying to carry things so long on my own. And then we hand them over, ask God to please carry them for us… and then, we let go, believing by faith that He cares, He hears us, and He can work in those situations. He will guide us in them and give wisdom in the actions needed. He is all powerful and able. We can rest our minds from the constant thinking and worrying about figuring them out, and trusting that He is.
And then, hopefully the next time we notice ourselves trying to carry them again, we bring them back to Him a lot sooner.
Thinking about all of that, I can’t help but want to sing this old hymn by Scriven, this version is my favorite, here are the lyrics =) .
How are you feeling about this New Year? I know many people are so happy to be seeing 2020 in the rearview. Are you looking at the New Year with excitement? Maybe a little bit uncertain or skeptical?
I personally love starting a New Year. Something about the freshness of starting new and dreaming about goals and having a fresh time table to work with– makes my planning-loving self almost explode with happiness. I know, I’m so weird, but someone has to be.
I haven’t always felt hopeful around the New Year though. A few years ago, I remember being at an all time low. I felt so defeated and down about myself. I didn’t want to make any resolutions or goals, because I felt like there was no way that anything good could come out of me and that it would be impossible to follow through with any of my goals. I ended up trying to make some goals anyway, and I remember a month or so into the year actually ripping the paper up I had wrote those goals on. So not only am I weird, but a little dramatic too, haha–thanks for being my friend anyway! But you get what I mean.
I don’t know if you can relate to feeling like that at all. Last year was such a difficult year too, with so much unexpected. It can be hard to think about the next one and plan. It is very possible too that circumstances in the New Year may not be so much better than the last year. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope ahead. While I may google the next stimulus payment as much as the next person, that cannot be where my hope or expectation is. While it’s probably cliché at this point to say it, my Christian sister, remember our real hope is not in circumstances or how things in our world are going. Our Hope transcends all of that.
Although it was a few years ago when I was really feeling down about the next year, I can see some of those similar thoughts creeping back in. I didn’t want to plan or try because I knew from my perspective that my own abilities and my own strength had failed me so much. I was fearful of other people letting me down as well. The thought of trying and failing, or trying and a circumstance derailing the effort just seemed so not worth it. But when I look back, I can recognize the reasoning why for me was because I was misplacing my hope and expectation.
I just want to encourage you this New Year, God has GOOD plans for you, whether you make goals or resolutions or not, whether you feel like anything good can come from this next year or not. Even if last year seems a failure, there is so much grace to start over each morning. If you know Him, there is good in store. His Word tells us that He already has planned good works for you to walk in this year! That means good things you don’t even have to plan for yourself! He’s already got the details, you just have to listen in. No matter how the circumstances in our world roll out. Things may get darker, but He is the light. We always have hope in Him and can always look ahead with expectation that He will be there. And He has purpose for you.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
So, as your planning (or not planning) goals in this new year, I hope I can encourage you with that–focus your eyes on Him as your expectation and hope. Draw near to Him. It’s okay to not have all the feels about the new year or even to feel a little skeptical about it, but He is going to be there with you. He is going to guide you as you focus on Him. And you can expect that He has good plans for you prepared. His good may look different than what you expect, but you can trust Him. He loves you so much!
I am making some goals this new year =)! Are you? I’m looking forward to sharing later this week!
Hi friends ! Wow what a year huh?? I started this blog at the beginning of the quarantine in March with no idea at all what the next few months would bring.
There has been so much that I have wanted to write about, but for one reason or another this has been my first chance for longer than I hoped.
Just like for you, I’m sure, this year has brought a lot of the unexpected. A lot of difficult things and some surprising good as well, I hope.
For me, a lot has changed this year! One of the biggest changes is that I am actually working at a school now (if you read this post you know what an amazing answered prayer of mine that is).
It has been so good, and I love it! But it has been a big change for my family! The drastic difference from us being home all the time together to all of a sudden all trying to get out the door early in the morning has been hilarious and sometimes stressful. My goal is for at least four out of the six of us to look somewhat like we could contribute to society that day. But to be honest, somehow my 6 year old really walked out the door in my two year old’s pants the other morning. And then getting home at the end of the day, exhausted and trying to figure out dinner and homework, and still wanting to spend time together… I know many of you can relate !
I’ve been looking so forward to resting and resetting on winter break this week. However, I find myself fighting against myself to slow down and do that. I’m my own worst enemy sometimes when it comes to rest. Especially because it’s the end of the year…I want to finish 2020 well! But what does that look like ?
The best person to ask is the Lord. What does that look like to Him? God, what does finishing this year well look like to you?
For me, it means just taking it one day at a time. Choosing Him today. Choosing to sneak away when I can. It means putting that thing that doesn’t actually need to get done right now to the side and just resting in the Lord. Taking extra time in the “quiet”, in His presence. Y’all know I had to put quiet in quotation marks because I know we don’t always have a choice for quiet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t focus on Him.
Take time these next few days, friend. Pray, read, talk to Him. Let Him encourage you and strengthen you. Listen for His guidance today. Follow through with what He shows you in how to love others. And do that again tomorrow, and the next day. Finishing this year resting in that habit of seeking Him is going to set us up for the best 2021.
If you’re not sure where to start, I was reminded of this thankfulness “life hack” we used to do in a ladies Bible study group. All you need is a piece of hard candy, paper and a pen. For the time it takes to finish the candy, try just writing to God about what you’re thankful for. I think you’ll find once you start that you don’t want to stop when you’re done. There really is so much to thank Him for, even in 2020.
As I was praying and talking to Him, I was reminded of this prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr that I learned as a teenager and it still ministers to me, I hope it does for you too,
There has been a lot that many of us wish we could change this last year, but we can have peace knowing it’s in God’s hands. There is also so much peace knowing that we know the One who is really in control. Let’s continue to bring those things to Him in prayer, He cares, and He always answers!
Our hearts of thankfulness, the way we react, the way we live day to day, our choices in spending our time, what we think about, the words we say, how we treat others… these are things we can change. And it makes an impact. We can ask for wisdom in how God wants that to look like. He promises to give us that wisdom if we ask!
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 NKJV
To ending 2020 well! Trusting in the One who is really in control 💗.
Do you all have something that’s so close to your heart it’s almost impossible to share about it? It’s been killing me that I’ve been working on this blog for a while and not really written yet about our family’s time serving in Mexico. I realize though it is because what that time means to me is just so big and so close to my heart that I can’t do it much justice in trying to explain because I know I’m doomed to come up short.
But yet, I still want to try . I’ve been thinking about our time there a lot lately as we have been settling into our new life here on the west coast. My husband has been blessed this last month with getting to visit our old home in Mexico more than once and I’m so happy for him and so jealous too because I miss it so much.
It’s funny though, because if we rewound our memories to 10 years ago, I would have never thought I would feel this way now, looking back so fondly on those years.
When we first moved to Mexico, we did it because we believed it was what God was calling us to do. Our pastor shared with us that there was a need for a couple that spoke Spanish to help with the training center there. I didn’t speak Spanish, but Bren did, and we prayed about the opportunity, and although we were nervous, we were so excited. A lot of people were excited for us too, but one thing we weren’t expecting were the many ominous warnings we got. Like, “don’t go there–you’re gonna die”. I’m serious you guys, someone straight up said that to us. Others told us our marriage wouldn’t last if we went. I laugh about it now, it’s so funny how encouraging some of us can be huh?
For me, I was a newer believer, but Brennan had known for years that God was calling him to the mission field. When we met (which you can read about here) it was actually on the mission field in El Salvador, and when we were getting serious in our relationship I knew that marrying him meant that we would spend time serving out of the country. I prayed and prayed because I knew I was called to marry Brennan, but the thought of whether I was called to be a missionary loomed in my mind. God really blessed me with some personal confirmations of my calling. In one confirmation, He led me to read Acts 20:22-24 which was my first time reading it ever, and since then has been probably the most important verse of my life.
“And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
After the first time I read those words I was like, “Oh my gosh, those people were right– we are gonna die!” Well not to spoil the ending,but we didn’t lol. But, we did go, fully trusting that God was the one calling us, no matter what everyone else was saying, because we wanted to follow Jesus.
When we got there though, things were pretty hard the first couple of years. We found out a few weeks before we moved that I was pregnant. I wasn’t like the delightfully pregnant lady, I was like, the throwing up every 30 minutes, crying the other 30 type. Brennan spoke Spanish, but I didn’t yet, so that made it hard to settle in without being able to build relationships on my own. There were also many other difficult things that weighed heavy on my heart in that season, on top of trying to get used to a new culture, that made it so hard to focus on what was really important.
And so, we would come back to the US every six weeks for my doctor’s appointments and I would just cry the majority of the drive back because it was so challenging for me to return to that situation. But we still went back, because of God’s grace we didn’t quit, and somehow clung on to the faith that He had called us and it was for a reason.
I just want to encourage you, if you are in a season right now that you feel that you were called to and it isn’t quite going so smoothly, it’s okay. And it’s okay if you don’t have all the feels about your season. Just keep clinging on, God is still with you and will help you and has good plans even in these hard moments. I’m telling you, if you told me back then that I would be wishing I could go back to those moments, I’d think you were out of your mind.
But, eventually, things did get better. For us the real breakthrough was with prayer, period.
We would be on our knees just crying for God to show us what He wanted us to do there and to give us the strength and courage to walk it out. I would pray and pray that God would help me to learn Spanish and send friends. In time, we watched the Lord do amazing things through His ministry there. We saw many come to know Him through Bible studies in orphanages and rehab centers, an internship program start up, a church planting school begin, and really sweet relationships form with friends there that still hurts our hearts to be away from them. We watched as He grew His ministry and would bring others alongside to help. And God stretched and blessed our hearts so much as we just fell so in love with the people and the culture there. It was like watching God give us a desire of our hearts we didn’t know we had, but He knew all along.
And then, after a little more than seven years, we began to hear God telling us it was time to go. And I dragged my heels. The leaving was so much harder than all of those tear filled drives back during the first couple of years. Mexico had become our home, the only place we had ever lived for a long time as a married couple, where our kids had started to grow up, and the relationships were ones that had been forged through thick and thin, through serving side by side in joy and in tears too. But, that same verse came to mind, the one that I thought we were gonna die about. Maybe we did die a little, if anything though, just to ourselves, but the life in its place was so much better than we could have ever imagined for ourselves.
And as God was calling us on, as much as we knew He had things for us to walk in, we also knew we could trust that it meant He had good plans for His ministry that we were leaving behind as well. It has been such a blessing since we’ve been gone to see how He has continued to grow His ministry there and flourish it more and more through the friends that continue to serve Him there.
Our time coming back to the US was challenging as well, but God of course thought through everything. He totally provided by sending us to New Hampshire where we could live with family as we were getting used to living in the US again. We were weird the first few months, maybe the first year, not gonna lie. Reverse culture shock is a real thing. But, we were so blessed to serve at the church there and grow in our faith and love of ministry again before He called us back to the west coast where we now get to serve in missions again, but from a support standpoint. We never imagined we would get to go back to the same place we served in Mexico and be a part of it again!
I wish that I could wrap up these thoughts in some kind of neat application, but I don’t think I have a tidy box for it all. But, I can encourage you that—you can trust God in His calling, to and from and during the in between. And that if you’re in a hard season, I know it’s so difficult to keep going, but just keep drawing close to God sister, keep praying, He does hear you. And if you ever need a friend, I’m here too =). And also, of course, remember that Mexico is amazing, and the people there are some of the best.
A couple of years ago my family was living in my in-law’s(or as I call them, my in-love’s) basement. We had just come off the mission field in Mexico and were transitioning back into life in the US. It was a really crazy time– because of circumstances, it wasn’t just us living with them, but most of our family was there too (there’s sixteen of us total). We would joke and say that the house must have elastic walls because it seemed to miraculously stretch for us all to be able to fit there. And we really did, it was pretty miraculous honestly. And more miraculous was the grace God gave us all in that season too–did I mention there was only one shower??
But something that would always make me laugh in that season was when I would hear the song “Who You say I am” by Hillsong. The lyrics go,
“Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am”
I would literally like have to hold back bursts of laughter in church singing that song. I guess it’s just my sense of humor, but somehow the thought of how in my father in law’s house there was a space for us all would make me laugh so hard.
Right before we moved back to the West Coast though, at the last church service in New Hampshire that I went to, the worship team sang that song and my reaction was so strongly the opposite. I could not stop crying. The thought of moving away from our family felt like my heart was being ripped out.God met me in that moment though and ministered to my heart about the same lyrics that used to crack me up. He reminded me of the original point of that song– that it is in HIS house that I would always have a place.
Knowing that I always have a place with Him changes everything about how I feel about the uncertainties of the future. It also changes everything about how I feel about my immediate perceived needs.
In that moment at church where I couldn’t keep the tears back because my heart was breaking thinking about being away from family– knowing that where I was going God was going to have a place for me brought me so much peace. Remembering that truth and having that relationship with Jesus when we arrived and things were rocky for a while was also solely what carried me through.
This week as I was doing homework, I came across this fact that I thought was so interesting and so pertinent, “According to research, a sense of belongingness—of being connected in important ways to others—is one of three basic psychological needs essential to human growth and development, along with autonomy and competence (Osterman, 2000, p. 325).
How important belonging somewhere is to us as people–it’s essential for our growth and development. With the word essential being such a buzzword lately, how interesting for it to be used regarding our need for belonging.
For so many years of my life I longed to belong. I was a mess, and that story is likely unfolding soon in a different post, but ultimately– that longing for what was missing in my life I can see now was really my longing to have a relationship with Jesus. In His house is where I always have a place, and not based on what I do, but based on His love. If I mess up, He isn’t going to kick me out and rent my space to someone else. He’s always there.
In my own experience, I can look back at my life and see how I tried and tried to fit squares and triangles into the hole of what was really missing in my heart. But reading in my textbook about how essential belongingness really is for people, it broke my heart because that need, like all of our needs, is found in Jesus.
I know it can sound overly simple, but that’s because it really is that simple.
“For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
Romans 10: 10-14
I want to encourage you friend, if you haven’t yet met Jesus–He is real, and so is His love for you. I know it can seem impossible how having one relationship can change everything else, but this one really does. It seems impossible because He is God and does the impossible every day. The saving that we receive in a relationship with Him is eternal, but it is also very much about today too. I have to tell you, I could not get through a single day without Him. Looking at the world right now I often think that I don’t know how people are making it through. He walks with me through each moment and will with you too.
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
When I was younger, I would look to moms that are the age I am now, or have the number of kids I have, and think, “They must have their stuff together.” To my surprise–one morning I woke up and here I am, and hey, how come my stuff isn’t together? Did I miss something? Like, most of the time I can’t even figure out when to shower. Sometimes, Brennan and I legitimately look at each other and are like, “Can you believe we have four kids?” Honestly still caught in surprise a bit. In surprise of the blessing, in surprise of the responsibility, and in surprise of how quickly time truly goes. And in surprise of how not put together we really are.
My mom skills, well– they aren’t always what I would hope they would be, and I definitely would not call them put together. One day last week for example, I started my day feeling pretty good. I got enough sleep, woke up early, had a Bible study, made the fam breakfast, and felt like this was going to be a good mom day… and then, on our way somewhere in the car, I lost it. I didn’t even know I was going to lose it, I went from peaceful to yelling in a snap. You would think it would be something pretty bad to derail my cool, but nope, the reason I lost it was because my oldest son was complaining he felt like he was going to throw up.
What kind of person yells at someone for feeling sick? Yeah… I did that. Apparently that day, I was that person, and maybe the only one in history too because that’s pretty weird and not compassionate.
In my defense, I did warn him ahead of time that he always gets car sick and shouldn’t bring his homework in the car, and he insisted. And so, there we were, on the highway, with him feeling sick, my five year old screaming for a snack or else he was threatening he would feel sick too, my two year old crying to hear the Moana soundtrack, and my seven year old feeling like my bestie for being the only kid not currently losing it. And so, I lost it too.
We got home and the tension was so thick you could cut it, our eyes were staring lasers at each other, and I just felt so defeated. And we get inside and Brennan looks up from his work at us and is like,” Tough ride huh??” Haha. I just have to share with you that’s where my mom skills are at some days. I know I’m not the only one who has embarrassing moments like this either and I’m writing about mine here as a virtual hug to you, because you’re not alone and we don’t have to stay there.
A good friend of mine would often pray for the moments that she fell short with her kiddos to fall away from their memories. Like, praying that when they remembered that day, she would hope that moment wouldn’t be the one they remembered. I find myself praying similar prayers as these little ones are getting older.
And as I’m writing this I’m thinking, can’t I pray that for myself too, but for the right now? Can’t I focus less on my shortcomings and imperfections of today? More and more my own imperfections and the realization that I need God’s grace, and don’t know what I’m doing, is more obvious. But I know that the time is short, and I know that one day very soon I’m going to look back at these moments with rose colored glasses because I’m going to miss this season so much. I’m going to miss it, and I don’t want to miss it right now because I’m focused on the negative.
I already do miss the season of them being babies and barely remember the things that were hard in those days, and I’m sure I will soon be missing this season as well, and the next one, and the next one. Because each day is so precious with these people. I love them so much I want to squeeze them until they explode into confetti.
I’m thinking though, I need to put on those rose colored glasses sooner rather than later. I wonder what things about right now I’m going to look back on with rose colored glasses? What part of right now is the good old days? Is it possible to focus more on that instead of my shortcomings and mistakes ?
Mommas, we’re not going to be perfect, but that in itself is perfect. It’s perfect because it makes room for a God who is. I may not feel put together or like I know what I’m doing, but God does. And that perfect God chose us to be these kids’ parents. He chose us. He chose me, even knowing my imperfections. He didn’t just choose us and then leave us to figure it out. He lets us come to Him for guidance, for strength, for forgiveness, for grace. He knows I am weak, and He gives me strength. He says that His strength is actually made perfect in my weakness.
“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
He knows I’m going to mess up, but He compassionately offers the way back. My parenting was never really about me being perfect anyway, it’s about me being able to point my kids to the One Who is.
And so my rocky situation that day didn’t go perfectly, but God showed up. After taking some time to pray, I could apologize, and my son was super sweet and gracious. And I got to talk to him about how I’m not perfect, and just because I respond a certain way sometimes doesn’t mean it was right that I did, nor am I happy that I did, because I make mistakes too and I’m sorry, and that I’m so grateful for forgiveness.
As I was explaining it to him that I’m not perfect, I realized that so much of my problem starts with the error in thinking I’m going to be perfect in the first place. In the morning, when I thought I was going to have such a good day, did that in my mind mean a day without conflict and one where I wouldn’t need any grace? My kids are going to have imperfect days too, and how I handle mine is teaching them something a perfect day can’t. It shows them how God is so faithful to be there, how He forgives, redeems, helps, gives grace, strength and patience.
So, I’m praying for us mommas, and for our kiddos, that we wouldn’t focus and remember so much about what went wrong, or how we fell short, but that we would remember instead the forgiving hugs, patience, love, grace, laughs, and sometimes the growing pains of our faith.
What a blessing and gift it is to be a momma! And to not have to be a perfect one, but to be able to lean on the One who is, and to point our little ones to Him too. The best thing we can give our little ones is our lives lived in faith.
Around this time last year I was so blessed to go to a women’s retreat where we were talking about God’s Word and how important it is to be in His word and delighting ourselves in it. One of the things we did was take time to share ideas about how to make time to be with Jesus in the busyness of life.
It’s funny because before now I wouldn’t have thought that being home like we are in this quarantine season would feel busier than life was before, but in some strange way it is.
I think having all of my family home all the time takes an extra effort to think about each day, extra planning for meals, and then just extra relationship time needed, we all have this weird emotional thing under the surface right now that pops up and man we just need Jesus. With all the extra that’s needed right now, more than anything I need extra of Him. We’ve all heard that phrase that it’s hard to pour out if you’re not pouring in.
I absolutely love to serve others and my family but if my motivation isn’t pouring out from love it’s only a matter of time before there’s going to be some kind of interesting problem starting with me about to explode in my house. And if any of you have tried to watch a virtual church service at home right now with little ones around you know it’s not exactly the same as when we get to be there in person. For one thing, most of the time when you’re there in person no one normally asks you for a snack during the study haha. Anyway, I’m just saying, I need extra effort and creativity to make sure I’m getting that time with Jesus right now.
One of my favorite verses talking about being in the Word is the first Psalm.
“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper. “
Psalm 1: Vs 1-3
I love how the psalmist mentions that the blessed man (or woman 😉 ) has their delight in the Word. For me, thinking about things I delight in, helps me to get an idea of how I can get more time in the Word. So, for example, I really like chocolate. But I’m not gonna just eat a bunch of chocolate, it makes me feel kind of sick on an empty stomach plus I’ll probably give myself some kind of guilt trip because I should be eating healthier. So, I would probably tell myself–I’m gonna eat a salad first. I’m sorry that you have to hear my silly mind but hey, the point is because I delight in the chocolate, I make plans for it. In the same way, because I delight in God’s word, I should make plans for how I can spend that time in it.
So, we’ve had a few weeks of this quarantine now, and I’m kind of getting an idea of how life is looking different in this season for our family. Where before it was easier for me to get up earlier and make sure I had the time, lately we’ve been up later because my kids are up later, and then my husband and I want to stay up even later so we can hang. And I know I could technically still wake up early but just being real– I’m grumpy if I don’t get enough sleep. So, taking all that into consideration I have to make a plan.
So, to delight myself in God’s word, I want to plan to get as much time in it as I can. I can’t bank on just “happening upon it”. I’ve got to plan for it because it is so important.
Something that really helps me is to see that plan as a date. If you and I had planned to go to coffee at nine, I’m going to arrange my plans to make sure I’m there and not cancel for just any little reason. The same should be even more true with spending time with Jesus. He is a real Person, and the most important Person in my life, why do I so easily postpone that time with Him?
So, right now, I still plan for that time with Jesus in the morning, but it does happen a little bit later and isn’t always the quietest. If I’m not able to read before the kiddos are up, something we’ve been doing is letting them have their devotional time too watching “What’s in the Bible” in the morning and I can sit with them while they watch and spend my time with Jesus at the same time.
But then, I also need the extra.
Because I’m delighting in His word, like the chocolate that I may try to eat without my kids catching me because I don’t want to share (haha), I also want to sneak away when I can to read, or listen to it when I can’t be reading like listening to a podcast, or meditate on it while I’m doing other things.
Something my friend recommended is that she writes down a verse on a index card that stood out in her reading and keeps that verse on her throughout out the day so that she can look at it and meditate on it. Another friend does a similar thing but puts the verse up in the kitchen so when she’s cooking she can read it. I like to listen to Bible studies when I’m doing housework and taking extra time reading when my baby is napping. Another friend of mine who doesn’t have little ones yet plans “extra indulgence days” where she clears her schedule from everything and goes to a secluded place to spend extra extra time in the Word, which sounds amazing.
Going back to Psalm 1,if we’re really delighting in God’s word, there’s such a beautiful picture of what’s going to take place in our lives.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The psalmist compares us who delight in God’s Word to a tree, and there are some special things about us as this tree.
First, we are planted by water, so we’re healthy, we’ve got a source of life coming to us. We’re stable, not needy, because we’ve already got what we need. I don’t know about you.. but I can be so needy :/. But the good news is all of my needs really can be satisfied in Jesus.
I think of the story of the Samaritan woman in the Bible…
She came to draw water in the heat of the day and Jesus asks her for water and she is surprised that He would be asking her. He tells her that if she knew who He was, she would ask Him for water and He would give her living water.
She at first looks at the physical, and is like, “How are you gonna give me water ? The well is deep and you don’t have a bucket.”
Sometimes I can relate, if I’m honest, looking just at the physical…
How can reading the word right now help me ? How is it going to get me any further in solving this problem I’m in? But the problem is I’m forgetting the spiritual… the word is Jesus, He is alive, He is my salvation not just from death, but today, in my circumstances He is able to redeem and bring life.
In John 4:14 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
She asks Him for it and in their conversation He reveals much about her, and leaving their encounter she runs into the city proclaiming Him as the Messiah and how He told her everything about herself.
We know The Word is Jesus– and we can have the same encounter with Him when we’re in it.
Another thing we see about this tree is that it brings forth fruit in its season and that it’s leaf doesn’t wither. I think part of that fruit is the ability to really serve and love the people around us. Or whatever the fruit is God desires to bring forth in the right season. But, in the hard times, the bad weather, the trial, the difficulty, we’re still ok. Walking through this pandemic, we’re still ok, better than that even– our leaves can remain green. And wow how your green leaf in the hard time ministers to others, they see it and they wonder what’s different. And we know that it’s our God that is with us and sustains us.
The last thing the psalmist points out about this tree is whatever it does– prospers. Not a material prosperity, a purposeful prosperity. A prosperity where whatever’s going on is going to work out for the good. The Romans 8:28 kind of prosperity “ And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
It says not that some things, but all things will work together for those who love God.
This is my prayer for us, that in the midst of this season we could be beautiful, healthy green trees with leaves even in a drought, satisfied and content in Jesus and able to produce the good things that God is leading us to do, ministering in our homes and where He leads and pointing others to the only One that can satisfy them too.
Here’s some ideas to get extra time in God’s Word and please comment and let me know if you have an idea I didn’t mention, I’d love to hear it!
Set a “date” and keep it (like when you make plans with someone important to you) and guard this time
Let others in your home know about your date and ask them to please respect your time with the Lord (kids learn from this too and may want to have their own time with Jesus)
Listen and sing a worship song before reading to help get your focus on the Lord
Get an accountability partner you check in with daily or regularly (“Lets text every morning at 9 and remind each other to get in the Word!”)
Pick a private not too comfortable place if you struggle with snoozing while reading
Minimize distractions.Put your phone away or on airplane mode. You can set yourself up for success by keeping all of your devotional materials, pens, notebooks, Bible in one place.. Keep scrap papers to write out “to do’s” that pop up while you are trying to study.
Keep Bibles/Devotionals open around the house (good for busy moms! It’s not clutter is spiritual survival 😀 )
Throughout the day listen to podcasts/devotions (can listen while driving, going on walks, doing dishes, laundry, getting ready for the day)
Write scripture that jumps out to you on index cards and keep with you to work on memorizing throughout the day, or post them around the house.
I have to be honest, I love telling “our” story. Even though most of the time I’ll default to letting Brennan tell it because it makes me feel so shy. But it’s just so fun to get to share, “Oh, we met in El Salvador.” Like, no big deal. Haha, sometimes I can play it pretty cool but most of the time I still nerd out about it. It really is a big deal, because I still think it’s just so cool that God brought me all the way out of the country to meet the man who would be my husband. God writes the best love stories.
I decided to post about it now because Brennan reminded me that it was around this time of year eleven years ago when God really put it on his heart that he needed to ask for permission to marry me. It was the sweetest thing, it was at a Good Friday service at church. Brennan was praying and God impressed on his heart that he hadn’t asked my dad for permission to marry me yet.
My dad at the time wasn’t very involved in my life, so Brennan didn’t get it, and was asking God, “How? Her dad doesn’t seem to even care?” But God replied to him, “No, you need to ask ME.”
This part of our story is so sweet and important for me because God was taking care of me. I love to be able to share it because I know that there are a lot of girls out there that may not have parents or dad’s looking out for them. I want you to know God will look out for you. He is the best Father you could imagine.
But, I have to backtrack a little to when we first met. At that time, I was just starting to really walk with the Lord. I had been going to church for a little while, but still very much walking “one foot in the church, one foot in the world” as churchy people say. For a while I had no idea what Brennan was even talking about most of the time because I didn’t speak the lingo yet. He’d use an expression like, “God’s got his eye on the sparrow,” to encourage me not to worry, and I was like, what the heck is he talking about. Haha, but anyway back to the story. You know what I mean, I was going to church but I hadn’t truly surrendered my life to Jesus yet. So, one night, when my one foot was in the church, I heard about a mission trip to El Salvador and I knew right away that I was supposed to go.
I started saving money and making plans but so many obstacles started popping up. God is so amazing and He blew the obstacles out of the water for me to get there. It was crazy, like on the way to the airport, I got a flat tire. At the airport, my name was spelled wrong on the ticket, and then when the customer service agent re-booked it under my real name–I got bumped off the flight because someone else booked at that same exact second. God even worked that out and I got there.
On that trip God did so much in my heart and it was just an over the top blessing that it was where I met Brennan too. While I was there, God called me out of my “one foot in the church, one foot in the world” lifestyle of hypocrisy I had been living in. He called me into full surrender with Him. There were a lot of implications in that, because my lifestyle hadn’t been sincere, so much had to change. The changes or things I “gave up” though all pale in comparison to all Jesus has done for me and the abundance of blessing in knowing Him. It was on that trip too that I realized my burden for missions.
Brennan and I got to meet because he was our host missionary on the trip. He had been there for 6 months, and was leading us on our outreaches. I noticed him right away for sure, his love for God and for the people there stuck out to me so much. But I never considered that someone like him would be interested in me. Like, I need a really tall ladder to get to his level type thing. I wasn’t single at the time either, but that was something God was calling me out of, because the other person wasn’t interested in knowing God, which was becoming the most important thing to me.
There was only one other lady on the mission trip, so we got to spend all of our time together. God used her so much in my life, she was so bold, to be honest, she called me out on my sin. And it was so uncomfortable. But I thank God for her. There was a lot to call out, but most notably, she would call me out about my relationship, and show me the scripture about not being unequally yoked. I’d never heard those scriptures before but the Holy Spirit had been ministering to me for months that our relationship was not something pleasing to God. I now saw the truth in God’s word. She would ask me what I was going to do about it. Even crazier, most of the other thirteen people on the trip sat down with me at some point on the week long trip and shared with me about their marriages and how they couldn’t do what they did without the support of their wives, and what a blessing it was to be in a marriage where you both loved the Lord. They shared that with me without even knowing the situation I was in.
Can you believe how amazing God is? He brought me all the way to El Salvador, made it perfectly clear that I was in sin, but showed me that there was a way out. He also began to put a passion for missions on my heart, taught me about what a marriage could be like, and even introduced me to my husband, all on the same trip. Like BAM, get both feet in. So, it was a really good trip.
When I got back home from El Salvador, our patient God even gave me an illustration in case I hadn’t heardyet. At church, the first sermon I heard when I got home, our pastor talked about this monkey trap.
He explained that in this trap there was a piece of wood with a hole in it, and behind the hole there was a big piece of fruit. The monkey could get his hand in and out of the hole as long as he wasn’t trying to hold on to the fruit too. Once he grabbed the fruit, he couldn’t get his hand back out. The monkey gets trapped though because he won’t let it go. When we are holding on to sin but trying to serve the Lord too, we won’t ever really be able be free. I knew God was speaking to me, and I was done living how I had been. He helped me to get out of the situation I was in and I began pursuing God with all my heart, not holding on to other things anymore.
Soon after, Brennan came home to the US to renew his visa, and during that time we found ourselves at all of the same church events, and before he went back to El Salvador again we knew that God was calling us to get married.
Normally when we are together and sharing our story, Brennan shares all the sappy details, I get too shy about it. His favorite part to share is that one day we were doing a Bible study together in the book of Ruth and I told him I would follow him anywhere. My favorite part though, the most important thing to me, was that I was afraid of someone coming in between my relationship with the Lord again. But God made it really clear that this time, this man loved Him more than he loved me, and it wouldnt be like that.
Anyway, this it seems so long ago now, and it was just the start. I can’t believe it’s really been around eleven years now since we first started dating, and to some that’s a little bit of time and to some it seems a lot. So much has happened in those few years. From moving as an engaged couple to Montana, to getting married and moving three months later to Mexico–pregnant! Almost eight years in Mexico, almost two in New Hampshire, and back to the West Coast and 4 kids later. Life with Jesus is such a blessing and adventure. I know technically this is our marriage love story, but it’s really God’s story. One of the many many many stories He’s writing. I had no idea when I surrendered everything to Jesus the good plans He had ahead, but to have the relationship with Him was all that was really important, all the other other stuff, even our story is just a blessing on top. I think it’s so important right now to remember the good things God’s done, He is so faithful and will continue to be. And there’s so much more good ahead to look forward to in our relationships with Him and seeing the stories He’s writing.
One of my most constant struggles is doing versus being. The classic Christian internal, “Are you Mary or Martha?” question. Even though I know the right answer is to be Mary, my natural tendency always leads me to Martha first and then I have to seriously track back. You’d think I’d notice this about myself and be quicker to surrender but man I fall into this cycle a lot.
It rolled out pretty quick when we first heard that the quarantine was going to begin–you know that I made a schedule for my family right away for how we would handle the day to day. I laughed so hard because someone put out a “whats your Enneagram type during quarantine” video and it showed the type 1 making a schedule. Yep, that’s me. I tried to be realistic in my planning and considerate of what we needed, like time for Bible study, being outside, chores, homework, rest, regular work, play…
It was a good idea, but it did not go as planned. What was really funny too was that my kids were actually trying to enforce it. Like, “Mom, it’s 10, aren’t we supposed to be on our walk?”
The truth was my focus was all over the place, and I was fighting against my own schedule that I had tried to make. I didn’t even want to follow it. I felt so strange and distracted. Trying to navigate this time with my own understanding, I was fighting to make a normal in my own perspective out of what just isn’t normal. I’ve never walked through this before, why should I pretend I have an idea what I’m doing?
I needed to get Martha in the back seat again and just let go and surrender. What really is essential for our family during this time that isn’t normal? I can’t ask myself; I need to ask the One Who is really in control here and recognize that I never was. And finally have some peace because I needed my eyes back on Him.
The same thing that was always essential before is what isessential now. The abiding in Jesus. If thatis all we get done today as a family, that’s all we need. I know we can’t force that on other people in our home, but we can control whether we will. It’s so essential that I’m in God’s word and praying right now. I need to let whatever “doing” happens flow from that time with Him, following what He has today, because He knows what really is important. That’s how my schedule needs to be made each day.
It’s essential that I’m loving Him and really loving others too. Only Jesus can really show me how my family needs to be loved right now. With my focus off I don’t feel like I’ve been doing so great at that, but I’m so grateful for His grace and forgiveness and opportunity He gives to try again. We are walking through a time unlike any before, and I don’t want to miss what God has for us in it.
So, here is how I’m trying again…
The schedule is out the window you guys. I’m not talking about being lazy, I know some things still absolutely need to get done, but I’m talking about surrendering. The essentials are first and most important, for me that’s my time with the Lord and doing a short study with our kids and praying together. I’m going to let Him lead, if we end up doing some stuff on my original schedule—awesome, but it’s His idea, not mine. With doing the things that can’t go, like homework, I’m doing it unto Him, like it should be done.
And I’m putting down my phone more. I realized a big reason my focus has been off is because I’m distracted worrying that I’m missing some kind of connection or information I need to have. That information will still be there in an hour, I don’t need to have my phone on me all the time. Everything is on screens right now… church, relationships, school, work, shopping… but it’s more than okay to take a break and just be present in the moment you’re in, to be present with Jesus and with those in your home.
This weekend we get to celebrate that He is alive! While this Easter looks so much different than previous ones, we still have the only thing that was ever truly important about it—our alive Savior. And I want to be present with Him!