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!
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.
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!