Guest Post: You Are What You Think

I’m guest posting over at Overcomer Outreach today, the new ministry started by my friend Janelle of Comfy in the Kitchen fame :) and I’m talking about the fact that what we think about becomes who we are in a post entitled “You Are What You Think.”

Before you head over there, some back story:

Janelle started Overcomer Outreach because she was burdened to encourage the women all around us who are hurting and hiding deep heartache. She wanted a site where they could find hope, help, and a listening ear. I love that she’s made an online home for this.

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I’m a face to face hospitality girl, and I can tell you that I’ve had streams of women sit at my table and share deep, deep heartache that you’d never guess was going on under the surface, from their outside, beautiful faces.

I’ve offered tea and encouragement to women who are honestly heartbroken. It’s the least we can do when the Lord has comforted us with His wonderful, never changing love. Christ’s love is the message we want to get across. “Nothing you can do will separate you from God’s love. No law keeping, no law breaking. No goodness, no badness. God loves you as He loves His own Son. We are joint heirs and totally accepted in the beloved.”

Sometimes when we go through trials, for whatever reason, we feel like we are alone. Worse, we think we are the only one to deal with this problem, and we try to hide it. Being alone makes us more prone to the Devil’s attacks and lies. Although having an “in real life” Christian friend or mentor to hug you is the best option, the truth is that many times hurting women are alone with no support.

 

I’ve seen this over and over again in the ministry. Pastor’s wives who don’t have one person they feel they can be completely honest with about their struggles. Ministry families who are struggling in their marriage, their children, or even with past guilt from sin, who put on brave faces, but are withering inside. It shouldn’t be this way.

Overcomer Outreach is a safe place for asking questions and getting support. The site has private FB groups for those struggling with guilt from abortion, and groups for those healing from s*xual abuse, eating disorders and more.

Janelle writes:

At OvercomerOutreach.com you will find a group of authors with compassionate hearts seeking to encourage you through the strength of God.

This amazing group of women is comprised of Licensed Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Christian Life Coaches, Business Owners, Published Authors, Professional Speakers, Professional Bloggers, Bible Study Leaders, Pastor’s Wives, Moms, and Wives…

 

“Many of us have been through some of the trials you may be bearing, which is why 2 Corinthians 1:4 is a verse we continue to cling to when we think of why we’re here. Don’t, for one second think, “this is a group of perfect Christians”, because there is no such thing. We are Christians because we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ , humbled and fully knowing we need a Savior.

Many of us have been right there in your shoes…believe it or not.

Yes, your shoes…

We pray to speak to the woman who have had an abortion, affairs, drug addiction (you fill in the blank) and our prayer is to use God’s word and truth to give her freedom. We pray for her to finally be released from bondage, from the lies she tells herself, and from the condemnation of the enemy that she is not worthy to go forward in her walk with the Lord and in her ministry.

We pray to speak to the oppressed, ill, victimized, tormented, abused, and bullied…we want to share God’s truth and love with you… and encourage you. We want to walk beside you to let you know…

You will get through this…”

Join me over there to talk about what you are feeding your mind.

7 Real-Life Reasons Women’s Blogs Go Cold

Some time back, Tim Challies blogged about some of his favorite blogs for and by women.  We shared several favorites and he mentioned several blogging friends (yay!) but at the end of his article he observed:

I was struck, as I went through all the blogs I follow, how many have gone cold. It may be that there has always been this much attrition in the blogosphere, or it may be that blogging is in decline, having given way to other forms of social media. It is hard to know. But I found a lot of blogs—former favorites—that had not been updated in months. Many of them ended with notes from the author saying that she would return at an undefined point in the future. I wonder how many will.”

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Today, three women bloggers explain why this phenomenon exists. here

I want to share my thoughts on this because women bloggers do bemoan the fact that we don’t write consistently. The topic recently came up in a mastermind group: “How do you find time to write consistently?”

And the answers are always the same:

  • I try to blog once a week, but sometimes I don’t even fit that into my schedule.
  • I try to go to a coffee shop and get a few hours to write, but I’m so exhausted that I sometimes I end up people watching and staring at the pastry case.
  • Life is so busy and the kids come first.

I’m going to throw out several reasons why I don’t always blog and my blog goes “cold.”

1. I sit down to write and one of my kids need me.

This happened twice this week. I finally muster up a thought worthy of penning down and my cell phone rings. It’s one of my college aged daughters calling to chat. I have to decide who gets my time: the blogosphere or my girls. My family wins.

2. I can’t feed my family a blog post. In other words, food has to be made. Really though, it does. And food prep takes time. My husband is always happier when he comes home to a pot roast dinner rather than a finely crafted post, however clever. :)

3. Life is unpredictable. I’ve often envied the predictability of my husband’s life. He gets up, goes to the gym or runs, gets ready, and goes to work. He works hard (he works two jobs so that I can be with our kids! Our hero!) but at work he does one thing: work. Then he goes to lunch and does one thing: eat. Although his day is certainly not his own as an employee, his task is singular in nature.

My life, on the other hand, is a little less predictable as any mother knows. Despite attempts at routine, when I get up, I never know what I may find.  I may be greeted by a sick child who is throwing up, or a household problem like the cat who just threw up or worse,  a heater that broke, or lesser crisis like “there’s nothing to eat in the house!” All require my immediate attention. This does not negate my planned daily work, mind you, but simply rearranges it.  I can’t just say, “No, I’m sorry. This problem does not fit into the schedule today. The throw-up stays until tomorrow.”

4. You cannot think, therefore, you cannot write. I’m just gonna say it for those of you who are not home with little kids all day:

Some days the noise is so incessant, between people talking to you, around you, and at you, sometimes two or three at a time, that the mind tends to want to explode, or it shuts down, and it’s hard to process thoughts.”  And all God’s women said, “Amen.”

5. Because of #4, we second guess ourselves, and our sanity, and are less apt to turn thoughts into words.

6. Blogging is not a primary ministry. My real life ministry includes helping Peter in the church, teaching teens and toddlers, encouraging moms, having women in my home, hospitality, visiting the sick. These all take time. Real face-to-face interactions take precedence over the computer.

7. Blogging about “theological things” requires spending lots of time in the Word. You can’t blog about what you haven’t learned yourself. And when time is short, we choose to study.

So, the next time a woman’s blog runs “cold” know this:

We’re caring for kids, changing sheets, cleaning dishes, making meals and packing lunches, trying to memorize Bible verses to keep our sanity and so we can teach our kids. We’re peeling 50 pounds of apples to freeze for the winter, cooking meals and cookies to send to our college students, answering texts from kids who need us now. We’re answering the phone and visiting our authentic community. We’re battling discouragement or loneliness or creating a beautiful day for our kids. We’re encouraging women and mentoring younger moms. We’re studying our husbands to do them good and not harm them.

We may seem a little scattered or inconsistent, but the mom-life is a wonderful life, and although we share a bit of our hearts on line, and are actually surprised when people show up and read our blogs,  our real heart is here in our home.

 

How to Stabilize Your Faith When It’s Been Shaken

Many of my very dear childhood friends have had what I call a “crisis of faith.” They believe in God, but they are totally skeptical of the church.

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Who can blame them, when their childhood church experience consisted of:

a majority of teaching that majored on minors, quirks, and non-essentials (the pastor’s wife wears this…here, you can’t see? Let me get up on the platform and model what a Christian woman wears, and so must you…and if we see you out and about dressed differently, we’ll call your parents/husband/father to task)

a healthy dose of fear-mongering (if you are sinning you’d better check to make sure you are really saved! Struggling with sin means that you are most likely not!)

a lot of pride (we’re so glad we’re not like those really bad sinners out there! God is good! Make sure you stay away from them!)

a lot of partisanship (OUR church is the best and we don’t mind saying so.)

a little condemnation (If you don’t do such and such [tithe, read Bible, witness], I’d be afraid to get into my car and drive.)

a little self-sufficiency (You don’t need counsel from anyone. Anything you need will come from the pulpit.)

major people worship (OH MY GOSH, that was pastor so and so. Hello, Pastor! Giggle, giggle. THANK GOD that we have THIS man as our pastor!)

feelings that they were never accepted, and that they never measured up. (When you start doing this, you’ll be qualified to serve. “THIS” usually meant conforming to the church norms on non-essentials.

“family love” that was pretty shallow (We’re all a big family and we all love each others. Unless you cross ME. Then I will cut you.)

They were taught a wishy-washy gospel that led you straight back to law-keeping for acceptance. You can be saved, yes, but after that, you’d better perform.

They’ve come to equate Christianity with rules, regulations, and fear-mongering.

I’m actually thankful that my friends knew enough to reject this type of religiosity. It’s a false gospel of works, and certainly not the atmosphere of a loving family of God. They’re still searching, many of them, and that gives me hope.

They want to know God, but they doubt they can trust the church.*

So for you who are searching, I know from talking to you, that it’s hard to unravel what God is like from how the church treated you.

But, hear me out, knowing God is your oxygen. It’s what you need for life. Like physical oxygen to the body, without it, your life is just a choking, suffocating existence.

Let’s be frank, God is not like the church. Isn’t that a wonderful truth! God is so much better.  In fact, the glorious truth of the gospel is that God came to rescues an “adulterous” people. We are so unfaithful to God in word and deed…but God loves sinners. I know you’ll be tempted to tune me out right, but please try to read:

There’s nothing you can do that will make God love you any more or any less. It’s unconditional love. That means that the love never changes. Never. Jesus paid it all, did it all, and continues to do it all for you.

How do you wrap your mind around such grace? How do you de-program your mind from such ingrained wrong teaching ?

How do you come to believe that God does actually love you? What exactly does it mean to keep the faith? Does it mean that you grit your teeth and hold to a certain creed with dogged determination?

The answer is to go back to the basics of faith.

If you’ve been raised in Christianity from childhood, the word faith is used so frequently that its meaning begins to be foggy.

Faith is simply believing what God says.

And because we are mortal, from day to day, our faith can vacillate.

But we can’t even begin to keep the faith if we don’t know the Faithful One. I don’t mean that you haven’t trusted Christ by faith to save you. Many of you have trusted Christ for salvation. But on a daily basis, do you know God personally and in a friendship way,  so that you can believe God?

I recently went apple picking. My dad’s big old apple tree lost a branch and we collected all the apples in an LL Bean Boat and Tote Bag. I trust LL Bean because I know that if anything happens to the bag, they’ll replace it. How do I know this? They say it in their catalog, yes, but they’ve also been faithful to their 100% satisfaction guaranteed warranty for many years and have a reputation for doing what they say they’ll do. I trust LL Bean.

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It’s the same with faith.

I can’t trust someone that I’ve spent no time getting to know personally.

I can say I know about Princess Kate. I might follow her styles and hair styles, but I only know OF her.  I don’t actually know her personally. If I got the chance to sit and chat with Princess Kate, and find out her likes and dislikes, and understand her as a person, I could say I really KNOW Princess Kate.

God’s the same way. You need to know Him personally through His Word and time spent communing with Him. Think of it like spending time getting to know a friend.

Faith that gives hope is not just some nebulous dream, like,  I hope that someday I’m going to heaven, or I hope that things will work out the way I’d envisioned. I hope God has this situation in hand.

Faith is based on knowing God’s character as revealed in His word. Just like I learned what Peter was like through writing letters when he was away for three years at college, I learn what God is like through His book, the Bible. It’s history, poetry, doctrine, law, prophecy that all points to God and reveals His character.

I knew Peter’s heart because I studied those letters in High School. They were a priority to me.

And I know God’s heart because I read His Word.

One of my favorite things about God is His faithfulness. In a world where people change and fail you, God’s faithfulness is a rock of security.

So many times throughout Scripture, we’re told that:

God is faithful,

His faithfulness is great and never fails,

He’s the faithful God, keeping covenants for generations because of His steadfast love and mercy.

He faithfully upholds us, literally keeps us together, by the word of His power.

We see time and time again how God intervened for His people to protect them. We see His faithfulness to the extremely unfaithful, sinfully idolatrous nation of Israel. We know that God even sacrificed His “only begotten Son” for our benefit.

What should be our response to the faithfulness of God? Faith, faith, faith.

Ask yourself:

Is God a liar? No.

Is God more powerful than I am? Yes.

Is God attentive to detail? Yes.

Does He promise to care for our needs? Yes.

Is He more capable than I am to care for my needs? Yes.

Then why don’t I trust Him?

Fear and faith cannot co-exist in the same heart. And so often, we suffer in this life with anxiety, doubt and fear, because in truth, we lack faith. We have to ask hard questions, like “Do I really know God for myself, or have I just heard of Him through other’s experiences?”

Notice the connection between lack of faith and its consequences in these verses:

Fear:  “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” Matt. 8:26

Doubt: “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matt. 14:31

Anxiety/Worry about tomorrow: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matt. 6:30

Lack of Power in Ministry: “Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it [the demon] out?”  He replied, Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt. 17:19-21

Unforgiving Spirit:So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the LORD,”Increase our faith!”  He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”  Luke 17:3-5

Having faith in God:

  • means that you believe what He says in His Word. Even things that are hard and may not sit right.
  • Faith believes that God will do all things for your good. Even the things we perceive as bad.
“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” Spurgeon

 

  • Having faith means that we may not know all the outcomes, but we are okay with that, because we know the nature of the One running all things.
  • Having faith means that we don’t have to attempt to dole out punishment for those who have wronged us, in childhood or in the present. We can forgive them, as God has forgiven us. It doesn’t mean that what they did was right, or that they are out of trouble, but simply that the Righteous Judge who sees all things will judge them as He promised to do. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”
  • Having faith means that you let God be God and you abdicate all rights to self-rules and allow Him to preside in your life.
  • And having faith means knowing that God will help us on days when we don’t feel faith. Feelings are not to be trusted. Feelings are not facts.

Living a life of faith means looking to God and following Him. Loving God with all of our mind means believing Him to be a truth teller.

So many of my sweet friends really struggle for even basic things like happiness and joy. They don’t want to live that way, and neither do I.

On the days when I struggle for joy, the real cause may be that my faith is anemic.

The cure may be closer than you think and easier than you expected.

The cure is to look for God in His word. Get one-on-one with your Bible and admit, “God, I know that my experience has left me wounded, but I really, really want to know you! I need you to show me what you are like!”

I promise, if you do this, God will reveal Himself to you through His Word. “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.”

He wants you to really know Him. He’s made all the provisions, and He knows all of your hurts and baggage. He’s available for you. Go to Him.

Do you struggle with faith? How has it affected your life? Do you find worry, anger, and doubt come easier than faith in God? Don’t be defined by your past. Don’t let the fact that you’ve lost your way here and there stop you. Seek the Lord. “Return to Me” is the desire of His heart towards you.

* This is why it’s so important to teach the clear Word of God, ministry leaders. Can you imagine what God will say to those in Christian leadership who made it harder for others to know Him? Instead of leading them straight to Christ through the Word, they made His sheep jump through hoops, live in fear, and serve some pastor’s small-k kingdom desires, when Christ has already done all the work and made the way wide open?

DIY Primitive Welcome Candles

It’s fall, and I don’t know about you but I’ve got the decorating bug. I want to tuck berries and leaves in every cupboard and basket I can find. Chunky knit throw blankets come out for chilly nights, and Yankee Candles are just plain a “staple” during this season.

I also love putting Welcome Lights into the windows. They look so cozy. So today we decided to take our plain welcome lights and give them a more primitive New England look. I thought I’d share how I did it. Here’s the finished product. You can buy them like this but they are pretty pricey if you want to do every window. So we make do and do it ourselves.

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Last Christmas I bought battery operated window candlesticks at a Benny’s, a local hardware store.  I got the type that you set once and they turn on automatically at that same time every day, and then shut off six hours later. They are LED and they flicker slightly.   I knew that the basic shape was right and that I could make them look older pretty easily. Here’s the before:

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To give them a primitive look, Hope and I spray painted the base black. I used flat Rustoleum spray paint from Walmart.

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While they were drying, we heated beeswax chips in the microwave  at 50% power for about 3 minutes, checking and stirring every minute to see how melted it is. I used beeswax because I had it, but you could use any yellowish colored wax or old candles that you might have. Melt them down and add a 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to give the wax a “grubby” look.

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Then, carefully dip your candles in the wax. Don’t burn your hands with the hot wax, because hot wax burns. Ahem. Ask me how I know. Make sure you are doing this over newspapers or parchment paper to protect your countertops. You want it to look bumpy and waxy. Spoon the wax over the candle filling in any holes or gaps,  to make sure the whole thing is covered. I drizzle wax on the sides to make it look drippy.

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Then I rub extra spices on the wax to make it look older.

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Then, with an xacto knife, cut through the wax so you can get the battery cover on and off when you need to.

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You can make them look as primitive as you want by adding more wax or more spices, and deciding how nubbly you want them to look. Below, the right hand candle is the most primitive.

IMG_4412.JPGBy the way, I used my iPod to take the pictures while I was working because I didn’t want my nice camera to meet with a wax accident. Sorry about the quality. You understand, don’t you? :)

You can take these right out of the bases and tuck them into baskets, or use them as night lights. Super cute.

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What do you think? Have you tried making these? Let me know if you do! Enjoy!

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Purpose for the Sidelined Mom

Nobody wants to live a sidelined life, especially young mothers who are full of energy and dreams. We want to make a difference and live with purpose, but frankly, life with little kids feels like being left out of the game all together.

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The rest of the world seems to be tackling life, moving ahead, and making progress, and we are very much stuck in the house. In fact, we haven’t made it out of the house in three days.

Do you ever wonder,

Lord, when am I actually going to do something of meaning for you? When will my life count? I’m home with these kids all day, every day. Everything I do is undone within 24 hours and nothing seems to last. I dreamed of serving others in your name. I long to share your mercy with others. I’m itching to encourage someone with your great love today.

I thought all these things when my kids were young. Especially on the bad days. You know the ones. On those days, I felt like I had missed my boat somewhere, somehow.

Those are exactly the times when my faith was tested. I wondered if God remembered me. Did He hear my prayer? Does He think that I am only qualified to wipe noses and break up toddler fights? (Which can be pretty scary, sometimes.)  I wondered if He realized all the lovely things I wanted to do for Him….if I wasn’t stuck in this house.

And then, one day, in the midst of my pity-party, God pulled back my blinders and showed me that He HAD in fact, answered my prayers. What I called “stuck”, God called “serving Him.” I wanted to go somewhere exciting to serve, but the Lord set up my base of ministry in my home. 

Perhaps you’re discouraged today. You thought that God would lead you to some exciting foreign mission, or to tend the sick in His name, or lead a Bible study, or to mentor women, or to have a ministry of encouraging hurting people, or feeding the poor. You thought you’d have this amazing calling.

From where you sit {looking over the mounds of laundry and your toy strewn living room} life is pretty mundane, and you’re discontent, wondering if this is all there is for you. You fear God’s passed you by somehow and that everyone else is doing the important work.

BUT, what if God has answered your prayer and you just don’t know it yet. Consider this:

What if God’s special mission for you is to be the one to encourage your own husband in your own home? Imagine how wonderful it would be to have him come home to a smile and a hug, a warm meal, and a “you’re important to me” look that lets him know you care?

What if God sent you to cook for those little faces right in front of you?  To give them a cup of cold water, in Jesus name?

What if God put you there to nurse sick kids in kindness in the middle of the night? To dry their tears when they are having nightmares? Someone has to do it.

What if God sent you teach your own children the Bible? Your teaching will impact generations for Christ, including your own grandchildren. That’s a pretty big assignment. Did you talk to your kids about God today? Are you pouring your life into teaching them first? Perhaps you could start there.

What if God sent you to encourage anyone who entered your home with the wonderful message of mercy and forgiveness that you’ve received? Imagine the impact a heart full of gratitude and a mouth that spills forth praise and thanksgiving could make on a discouraged younger mom, mailman, or neighbor?

Perhaps the biggest ministry impact we can have is right here, in these four walls.

Now, I know you’re doing many of these things, because women get things done. But, we all know that we can serve willingly or grudgingly. Sometimes, we’re going through the motions but our joy is all gone.

Let me encourage you to do what you’re doing for Jesus sake, and the joy will return. 

“Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The location of your ministry doesn’t make it big, the Author of your ministry makes it big.

And if you are at home with little ones all day, praise God for such a ministry! Give them your best. Be the best example you can be. Show them how much Jesus loves them by being His hands and feet.

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That perspective changes everything, doesn’t it? :)

This, I can do Lord, for You!

7 Tips For Dealing With Toxic People

Today I’m sharing some of the best advice I’ve been given for guarding my mind and heart when it comes to toxic people.  Nothing mind blowing, mind you, just plain common sense, because if we’re not careful, their craziness will affect us.

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“Love covers a multitude of sin.”

I often get email from hurting women in need of advice about dealing with what I call a toxic person.  I posted some of this on FB after a woman shared some of her “crazy person” struggles with me, so some of this is not new.

When I say “toxic person,” I mean a person who is unhappy/hateful inside and chooses to attack you because of their own bitterness. Their modus operandi seems to be seek and destroy. They vacillate between two extremes: Flaming anger in the form of outburst, attacks, and slander, or the “You’re dead to me approach” which is a little more humorous.

In “You’re Dead to Me”, they’ll maybe they go out of their way to exclude you or ignore you (and then of course let you know that they did! lol)

Or maybe they pull out the old silent treatment, complete with stoney faced scowls and glaring eyes. Lucky you. ;) Either way, it’s not actually true avoidance because they want you to know what they are doing. (I know. It’s exhausting just typing it.)  A better description would be the long distance, passive-aggressive attack.

Anyway, you get the picture. They look for a way to make you hurt. They attack anything associated with you: your reputation, a ministry, your kids, your marriage, your clothes, likes and dislikes, your personhood. * **

Sooo, say you’re dealing with a “prickly/toxic person.” I don’t know why they are prickly and neither do you. Maybe they’re insecure, or jealous, or just plain unhappy in life. Maybe they’ve been hurt themselves and have dealt with it in negative ways. How do you deal with them, while loving them, and not “owning” their junk?

7 Tips for Dealing With Toxic People

1. Remember this truth:Nothing other people do is because of you, it’s because of themselves.”

You aren’t responsible for someone else’s bad behavior or words, they are. Nasty words and actions are a reflection of their heart. Rude behavior is about them, not you.

We are all responsible for our own actions and words. You are responsible for you and I am responsible for me. And I can choose whether or not to let your words, actions or reactions affect me.

2. Don’t take it personally.

Very little about what others say or do is about you. It’s about them and their experiences, fears, insecurities, and their own inner workings. Sometimes people will attack with words, to your face or behind your back. Don’t take it personally. Don’t put any mental energy into it. “What Susie says of Sally says more of Susie than of Sally.” Don’t take in their poison and internalize it! Call it what it is: Their poison.

3. Don’t assume anything.

When someone uses their words against you, don’t assume that it has anything to do with you. (See rule #1) They might be spewing venom at you or trying the slow-drip injection method of sending hate your way, but even with all that, don’t assume that their behavior toward you has anything to do with you. It’s about them.

It’s tempting to want to get into it with them. Don’t. Especially if this is their pattern. That’s exactly what they want. A feuding heart wants someone to feud with.

If you refuse to fight or ignore the behavior all together, they’ll look for someone else to attack. (Hopefully. Is it horrible to hope that!? lol Sorry, I hope it’s not you!)

If you choose to return “evil for evil” or “tit for tat” then YOUR actions and words are YOUR problem. Then, it would be about you.

4. Refuse to Be Like Them. 

“Watch and Pray, lest you fall into temptation.” I know that this is out of context, but the principle can be applied here.

People who hold grudges are on self-destroy mode and they don’t know it. Perhaps they’ve never been forgiven themselves, or have never learned to forgive others. The result is a heavy, guilty, unhappy conscience.

As Christian women, we don’t have options when it comes to forgiveness. The commands are clear: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” End of command. No caveats or exclusions.

When you remember how much you’ve been forgiven by God, you’ll be able to forgive others of their wrongdoing toward you.

We should never take it upon ourselves to dole out punishments for other people. That’s not our job. That’s God’s territory. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”

Our job is to have faith and trust Him to do what He says He will do. He’s not a liar. He’s powerful enough to take care of us and promises to do so. He will avenge wrongdoing. Maybe not on your timetable, but at exactly the right time.

5. Pray for them. 

We all need prayer and praying for someone who “persecutes you” or “despitefully uses you” is a command of God and one that we cannot omit. If you want to obey God, you’ll love your enemies and pray for them. You can’t hate someone you are sincerely praying for.

6. When appropriate, model normal, kind behavior.

First off, when is this not appropriate? When physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is present or probable. It’s not your job to deal with that person.

But barring extreme cases, kindness is always classy. Be kind. Be above reproach with your words. Let your actions reflect Christ.

7. Live your happy life, and smile. This, too, shall pass.

You are responsible to live your life and you only have one. Life wholly and fully.

These principles will actually stop you from choosing to internalize the actions of others, and from accepting the affects of their anger and bitterness into your life and mind.

It will allow you to see past their hurt and actually love them and perhaps minister to them. At the very least, you’ll not be giving them the same tit for tat treatment that the rest of the world gives them back. Maybe something about the love of God in you will make them want to know more about Him? Maybe kindness will break the bone? ;) Prov. 25: 15

We’ve all dealt with this before in one way or another and I feel for all of you who are dealing with this right now! I know how hard it is to trust that God will bring about good through this situation!  I’m praying for you!

I know this list is not complete. What ways have you found to deal with toxic people in your life?

 

*The Bible calls this HATE and MURDER in the NT, and NO Christian should ever be acting in this way. It is a sin to hate even one person. It’s also a sin to not love someone as you should, according to 1 Cor. 11. Now, our love is rarely as “Christ loved” or as “fervent” as it should be, but to succumb to hate or to choose to withhold love from someone is just plain devilish.
**Sometimes in ministry we have to deal with/counsel toxic people. Know your limits. You can’t help them if you begin playing their games. Objectivity/wisdom is needed to see through their behavior. Sometimes you can become the target. If so, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to affect any change in them. Refer them to someone who can help them, or a licensed counselor.

Hey, What Are You Looking At?

It’s that time of year.

We began our homeschool year this week and as I evaluate where each child is, the old tendency to compare surprises my heart yet again. Comparison is always a cruel tormentor:

Maybe we should have done that curriculum all along. Why is she struggling with these math facts? Did I use the wrong method? Did I not spend enough time with this child laying foundations? 

Panic creeps in as we compare our “right now” to some dreamed up version of what life must be like in the Joneses house.

The snare of compare. (pdf here)

Sometimes I wonder if the Lord feels like calling to me, HEY, What are you looking at?! Get your eyes back on Me!

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Where He Leads me, I will follow.

Do you ever feel this way? Maybe you don’t homeschool, but do you wonder if you should perhaps be feeding your kids all organic food, or decorating your home like so and so, or maybe you should try the child raising techniques that the Joneses seem so enthusiastic about?

It’s easier to follow other people’s methods than to follow the Lord.

It’s easier to take our cues from flesh and blood, from what can be seen and measured, from the confident homeschooling mom who seems to know just what she’s doing, than it is to walk by faith.

There are no glaring advertisements when you walk by faith. No printed confirmation tickets to where this ride is going to take you. No money back guarantees if you didn’t enjoy the ride.

But the just shall live by faith. Even in matters of child raising and education.

When we look to Him and set our gaze on His Word, peace ensues.

The comparison ceases as we step-step-step gently in the path He’s provided for us.

The glorious truth is that Jesus will lead us if we are willing to follow.

And although it’s fine to ask for help and wisdom from seasoned women who have had great results, we have the promise of generously, “liberally” given wisdom, to anyone who asks in faith.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

I know from experience that it’s easier to hop on Google than it is to sit and pray.

I know it’s easier to talk to a friend than to pray.

It’s easier to try to do more and be more in the pursuit of excellence, but what God wants is your faith, and with that faith, He’ll perform for you. Do you believe this? Do you believe that God can take your humble efforts offered up in faith and multiply them and make them powerful for His kingdom?

When our eyes are gazing on Jesus, we can be confident that He’ll guide us through prayer and His Word.

I will let you in on a little secret: Jesus can answer your child raising questions. I can testify to this many times over. I can remember needing practical life wisdom for several issues with our kids. I would pray and ask the Lord to make His will clear and let us know how to deal with this child. I remember kneeling by the side of my sleeping stubborn toddler’s bed. I was to the point of a near break down after a particularly bad day, and I begged God to send me answers. I can tell you that He always did either through a book, or wisdom from an older woman. And once I prayed about it and left it with the Lord, I was in “wait and see” mode. I was expecting answers, and He never disappointed. We have an open ended invitation to ask God for wisdom any time we lack it. It’s one of our BEST resources. God loves your kids more than you do, after all!

My encouragement for you is to follow God on the path He has prepared for you. Keep your eyes on Him. Your life, home, ministry, and family dynamics may look totally different than mine. God has made us all unique, and He’s leading us, by His grace, to the end He has planned for us. Our job is to trust Him, obey His word, live a life of holiness and FOLLOW.

Don’t try to make your path match the Joneses. Follow Jesus.

 

 

Favorite Weekend Links

I hope you have a great weekend. Here’s a newsy post for you. Grab some coffee and enjoy!

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News:

Rebekah is already back at school and Emily is headed there tomorrow. Pray for them, won’t you? We’re hoping that any health problems that Em had her freshman year will be no longer an issue now that she is an appendix-free girlie, as of this summer. :) Pray for Rebekah to be a servant-leader on her hall in her role as RA.

Also, I’m excited to tell you about a great opportunity the Lord has given me. I’ve been asked to be a contributing author to an online resource/counseling website for hurting women. It’s launching this October and honestly, this team of writers is out of my league. Two words: Karen Ehman. Yes, she’s one of my favorite authors (hospitality ninja) and she’s also a contributing author. Also, when you read all of these women’s bio’s and then you see mine, you’ll laugh. ;) But, I’m honored to be part of such an amazing team! I’ve learned so much in the past two months from all of them, working behind the scenes, getting this project together.

Just because an opportunity presents itself, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s from God. So, I’m following God’s lead (and seeking Peter’s advice and the advice of godly friends!) as He hands me ministry opportunities in the areas of writing and speaking lately. I’ve always wanted to write books, because I’m so thankful for the part that “book mentors” played in my spiritual growth. I hope to share what I’ve learned about life– motherhood, hospitality, ministry, mentoring—and be a help to some other struggling woman. I’ve never wanted to speak to women, because, my comfort zone is speaking to teen girls or teaching younger children, but the Lord keeps nudging me and giving me opportunities to speak for Him. A godly woman schooled me: “Satan’s women are out there spreading his message! How can the Lord’s women not speak for Him?”

I feel the Lord is preparing me for that “someday” ministry right now. He’s swinging doors wide open, and I wish I could say that I strut through them with confidence, but my reality is that I peek through the crack of the door onto the other side pretty timidly, and fearfully, not really sure if I’m ready to take that next step and walk through. Pray for me as I write, that the words of my mouth (keyboard) will spoken in love and will point people to Christ.

Articles I loved:

4 Ways to Live Out Your Role as Helper: Jen Thorn

The Truth About Grace For Today: Ruth Simons

How To Have Joy: Christine Hoover

Why It’s So Critical We Connect With Friends: Lisa Jacobson

If Your Child Is Looking At P*rn, Give Them Grace: Jessica Thompson (Elyse Fitzpatrick’s daughter)

Talking With Your Children About Persecution: Kara Chupp

Ferguson and My White Son: Trillia Newbell

Currently Reading:

Women of the Word (Advance Reader Edition): How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds
The Holiness of God
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

 

Kindle Deals:

Women Living Well: Find Your Joy in God, Your Man, Your Kids, and Your Home is $.99 today.

Funny:

You know it’s true! ;) lol

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  Crafty:

 Easy Fall Watercolor Tutorial for kids. 

DIY Pearl Statement Necklace via Gracelaced. Ruth has an amazing sense of style and this necklace is gorgeous!

Yummy:

Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

Copycat Vanilla Chai Recipe (Just like Dunkin Donuts)  I’ve eliminated a step to make it super easy. This is a great mix to make for your college students! My girls love it!

Great Quote:

It makes me boil when I think of the power we profess and the utter impotency of our action. Believers who know one-tenth as much as we do are doing one-hundred times more for God, with His blessing and our criticism. Oh if I could write it, preach it, say it, paint it, anything at all, if only God’s power would become known among us.”  Jim Elliot

*post contains Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog.

Easy, Fall Watercolor For Kids

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Here’s an easy fall watercolor you can do with your younger kids. This was done by Holly when she was 11. This can be done with cheap Prang or Crayola watercolor boxes.
1. Gather a variety of leaves outside.
2. Bring them in and trace them onto watercolor paper, marking veins and stems.
3. Begin with yellow. Paint washes of yellow. Allow to dry.
4. Next, overlay orange and watery red. (The more water you use, the less intense the color. Let kids play with this concept to get a variety of tones.) Let dry.
5. Add greens. Make greens by mixing blues and yellows. Let dry.
6. Make the leaves “pop” by adding dark purples or browns to the background. This pushes the lighter colors to the front and adds visual interest. Allow to dry.
7. Frame.

Enjoy!
*You can do this on a smaller scale, making stationary by using watercolor greeting cards, available at any craft shop.
** for older kids, add acorns, berries, twigs to the mix.

Holiness for the Church That Is Too Ridiculous

Are you frustrated by the pursuit of holiness? Does it seem like an impossible task? You’re not alone.

Pretend with me that you are seated in a church sanctuary. Now, look around the room at the people nearby. What kind of people do you see?*

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In my imaginary church, I see

  • A frazzled mom impatiently SHUSHING her kids in the sanctuary.
  • A moody husband who rolled his eyes and belittled his wife yet again with sarcasm.
  • An energy-drained single mom trying to make ends meet on her own because her husband is a good for nothing.
  • A married couple who live side by side in cool indifference.
  • A heartbroken woman who dulls the pain of her husband’s unfaithfulness by excessive spending and endless Botox.
  • A guy whose pornography addiction has devastated his wife, leaving her fighting depression and overbearing guilt.
  • A ministry couple who came to church fighting and will continue the argument after the morning worship service.
  • The bitter woman who proudly carries a chip on her shoulder like it’s a victim badge.

On any typical Sunday, in any given church, you’ll find pews full of sinners. (If you find a church that’s perfect, let me know!)

We’re all ridiculous in our own ways. And still the command rings in our ears:  “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” I almost want to snicker, Are you kidding me? Holiness seems about as likely as lassoing the moon.

But the command remains. What’s a raggle-taggle church full of ridiculous sinners supposed to do with this command?

Be Holy. Set apart. Consecrated unto God. Single-minded. Obedient.

First, humble ourselves. Stop thinking we can do this alone.

Then, draw near to God and claim, yet again, His enabling grace.

Grace motivates us to keep on going. Kinda like when you taught your kid to ride a bike, and they tipped, and fell, and failed. You kept cheering them on, and holding the back of the bike for them, running alongside, never leaving them for a minute, telling them that they could do this thing. You encouraged them toward a goal, but their lack of fear and confidence in your good will toward them motivated them to try, try again, keep peddling, keep getting up, even when they are unbalanced, wobbly, scared and have never done it right before.

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It’s the same with Grace. If we feared getting the proverbial ax every time we mess up, we wouldn’t even try. But grace leads us, nurtures us, teaches us in love and keeps encouraging us in the right direction. The same grace that saved us keeps us and teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live sensibly, upright, and godly lives in this present life. (see Titus 2:11,12)

God’s grace does not stop when you’ve failed. It pulls you back, spurns you onward and helps you to see big picture. Many people tell you that when you fail, you should look upward. Of course they mean that you should look upward to God and from your circumstances, and I know what they mean.

But I believe that God’s grace teaches you to look downward. God’s grace teaches us to see things with an eternal perspective. We start at heaven and look down, and all of the things we thought were so big actually pale in comparison to eternity and spiritual treasure.

If you have legalistic tendencies, grace alone may disturb you. So, lest you misunderstand, and think that I am encouraging recklessness and lawlessness, a caveat:  a focus on God’s grace that ends in disregard for God’s laws is not grace at all, but licentiousness.

“Legalism makes believers think that God accepts them on the basis of what they do. Licentiousness makes believers think that God does not care what they do. Both errors have terrible consequences. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Grace should not make obedience optional. When God removes good works as a condition for His acceptence he does not remove righteousness as a requirement for life. The standards of scripture glorify God and protect His people from harm.

Resting on God’s grace does not relieve us of our holy obligations; rather it should enable us to fulfill them.

Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength

Grace-living that relies on God to help us live in ways that please Him produces fruit that looks like Him.

  • Selfishness takes a back seat as you live for others and God’s glory.
  • True ministry to others can take place as your heart is purified and base motives removed.
  • Closeness to God occurs as pride falls away and humility is embraced.
  • Your love for others is seen more clearly as you truly learn to love and obey the Lord.
  • Your reasonableness is known to all men.
  • You fulfill your call to be “holy and blameless BEFORE HIM.” Eph. 1:4

Martin Luther, the once Catholic priest turned reformer, when he realized that good works and law keeping could not save you, but faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, encouraged us to drop what we once considered our spiritual “trophies.” These words should encourage you to stop attempting holiness for the wrong reasons. God does not owe us anything because of our feeble attempts at holiness. He loves us and desires us to be holy and spurns us onward with His power.

Martin Luther, from The Sum of the Christian Life:

It will be exceedingly difficult to get into another habit of thinking in which we clearly separate faith and [Works of] love … even though we are now in faith… the heart is always ready to boast of itself before God and say:  After all, I have preached so long and lived so well and done so much, surely he will take this into account… But it cannot be done. 

With men you may boast:  I have done the best I could toward everyone, and if anything is lacking I will still try to make recompense.  But when you come before God, leave all that boasting at home and remember to appeal from justice to grace.

Let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter a thing it is for a man, who all his life has been mired in his work righteousness, to pull himself out of it and with all his heart rise up through faith in this one Mediator.  I myself have now been preaching and cultivating it through reading and writing for almost twenty years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness.  And still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace;  yet this is what I should and must do.  The mercy seat alone must prevail and remain, because he himself has established it;  otherwise no man can come before God. 

Are you depending on God’s grace today to give you the power to change, or are you running on empty/exhausted from trying to live the try-hard life for yet another day? You can’t do this on your own. You need enabling power. Plan to sit with the Lord today and ask Him to open your eyes to your need and His all sufficient resource, GRACE.

*This exercise, adapted and personalized from Bryan Chapell’s Holiness By Grace.