Are You Accomplishing Anything For God?

Maybe you’re discouraged today, dear friend.

Maybe you’re wondering if what you’re doing matters in the long run.

Last week I wondered, too.

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I was reading over a list of New Year’s questions (meant for personal reflection and growth) from a sweet friend in a writing group. It was a wonderfully thorough list, meant to prompt confession, repentance, acceptance.  Questions like:

  • “If the last year could be summed up in a word, what would it be?”
  • “What are the two or three themes that kept occurring.”
  • “What are some major life lessons I learned this year.”
  • “What’s one thing I can do this year to increase my enjoyment of God?”

I breezed through them until I came to this one:

What did I accomplish this year that I am most proud of?”

I sat and thought. What one thing did I accomplish that I was most proud of?

Honestly, I couldn’t think of one. I sat on this for a few days, thinking about it. Still nothing. This really bothered me.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t done anything. We live a busy life. But to not be able to think of one thing? This bothered me enough to write a dear friend to see if she could think it through with me. (THIS is the benefit of having iron-sharpening-iron friends.) We hashed it out a little and she helped me gain perspective.

Some seasons of life cannot be measured by accomplishments.

There are times when life happens so fast and people need you so intensely that what you accomplished hardly makes the highlight reel. (Think sickness, death, new baby, foster child, new adoption, moving, etc…)

This Christmas I planted a lovely amaryllis bulb that a sweet reader, Becky, gave to me. I’ve been watching it grow and bloom against the backdrop of the grey bare trees outside my window. It started as a brown bulb, a stump really, not very pretty but full of potential. I planted it, put it on the windowsill, and gave it water. Things must have happened underground, because now it’s in full crimson bloom. The flower was alive and accomplishing its task underground before any of us had any clue it was accomplishing anything. The growing season was an accomplishment that allowed the flower to blossom.

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I believe our mundane days are the same–underground work, unseen, undetected, un-celebrated, but vital.

Maybe you are in a mundane season right now. Maybe all your hard work is unseen because it’s undone the very next day– the clean house dirtied, the once shiny sink now full of grimy water.

Moms, we feed hungry bellies. We wash clothes and remove stains. We wipe tears and console hurt feelings. We listen to little hearts. We make meals for others and host people in our home. We bake cakes to mark milestones for family parties and church fellowships. We bathe dirty bodies and change messy diapers. We stir stew and kneed bread. We watch our neighbor’s kids. We calm irrational fears and keep toddlers on our hip when they are whiny. We make sure our kids do their homework, get to their appointments, and make their beds. We sit with hurting women. We stay behind so that our husband can minister to others.

It’s not hollywood stuff and it may not be memorable, but it’s important. This is the stuff of life and it’s where God has called us to bloom. It may not feel like an accomplishment. Nobody’s going to celebrate that you made your bed and got tangles out of the two year old’s hair.

But it’s our sacred work. It’s our reasonable service.

My friend sent me this wonderful verse:

Ps. 37:3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

God doesn’t require accomplishments. God just wants us to be faithful right where we are. He wants us to take joy as we serve others in hidden ways that no one will ever know about except God.

My friend also sent me these lovely lines from Robert Louis Stevenson that I hope encourage you as much as they encouraged me!

“The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain common work as it comes certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.”

and

“Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowds shout your name.”

And from Elisabeth Elliot:

This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

10 Ways To Refresh Your Soul

Looking for ways to refresh this winter? The common theme among my friends is that we are all looking for ways to rest our bodies and revive our hearts a bit after a hectic holiday season. We all know that doesn’t happen automatically. It needs to be planned, especially if you are responsible for the daily care of babies, toddlers, teens, or the elderly. These stages of constant giving can be draining.

I’ve learned from experience that when I am depleted, I’m not the wife, mother, or friend I want to be. The more I feed my own soul, the more I have to give out.

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I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite ways to refresh. I hope you’ll share yours as well. Maybe your list looks different from mine–that’s okay. But we all have this in common–we all need to rest. So, pour yourself a cup of tea and repeat after me: “Caring for yourself is wise and everybody needs to rest.” 😉

Here goes:

  1. Spend time alone. New research suggests that quiet time–literally solitude and silence–can be therapeutic in the noisy world we live in. If you have young children, try to find a few snatches of time in the early morning, late evening, or during afternoon naps to just sit and listen to the silence. This is a perfect time for a warm cup of coffee, your Bible, a journal, or to meditate on a daily verse. Bonus: A worshipful life gives us the added benefit of direction and strength to face each day, no matter what comes our way.
  2. De-clutter your soul. As you sit, listen to what’s going on in your heart. What recurring theme pops into your mind? What worry, disappointment, regret, or memory is disturbing your peace? Recognize it, acknowledge it, fix it if you can, repent of it if you must, and then give it to God and move on! Don’t let “mind noise” keep you from thinking on “things above.” Colossians 3:2
  3. Rest. We weren’t created to run, run, run. What comes up must come down. After the adrenaline of the holidays you must take a good nap or go to bed early. “You are only as spiritual as you are rested.” ~Jim Berg
  4. Pray. Did you know that simply talking to God and sharing your burdens, disappointments, frustrations, and ambitions with Him is more beneficial than telling them to a friend? Plus, God can actually intervene and do something about all you share…and He’ll never betray your confidence or reveal your inmost secrets. There aren’t too many friends that you can trust like that.
  5. Spend a moment reading for pleasure. Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of reading quality material in small chunks, allowing the brain time to process and make connections with the material. I’ve found that over-reading can hinder comprehension and appreciation of the material.
  6. Plan time for friendship. Who are your 3 closest friends? If you haven’t told them how much you appreciate them lately, what are you waiting for? Text, write, phone, or visit your friend and make time to laugh, shop, and eat together. You’ll both benefit.
  7. Plan for beauty. When winter is blah, I know that arranging some small vase of flowers, a candle, a freshly pressed table cloth, or some other simple seasonal display does wonders for the atmosphere of my home. Simple creativity bring so much pleasure.
  8. Change of scenery. If you are a stay at home mom or a homeschooling mom, I KNOW it can be hard to load all the kids into the car and go somewhere but just do it. Head to the library, your favorite bagel shop, or to a friend’s house. Go somewhere where you can grab an inexpensive treat and the kids can play. This is a mood booster, especially during long New England winters.
  9. Plan for stimulating conversation. I’m not a small talk person. I love to talk about heart and life matters and I’m not afraid to ask the people I respect their views on difficult subjects. My happiest moments are over a cup of tea discussing philosophy of education, motherhood, and ministry life with a dear friend. If you are far from friends, listen to a pod cast or seminar online about topics that interest you. I loved this one from Sally Clarkson.
  10. Learn a new skill. Anything you ever wanted to learn is on YouTube. What a time to live! Right now in our home, we’re practicing calligraphy and hand lettering, and crocheting.

What refreshes you? Share in the comments.

How I Plan and Prioritize My Weeks

Several of you have told me that you wish you could sit at my kitchen table and see how I plan our busy life so I thought I’d do a post about what that looks like.

For years I’ve used this Weekly Priority Printable that I made for myself.

It’s just to plan the HIGHLIGHTS of our week, not every little task. It’s also a reminder of our IDEALS–how we want to look back at how we spent our life. It’s a run-down of what God calls me to in Titus 2.

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For instance, at the end of a week, I want to have spent time in God’s Word. That’s goal #1. I want to intentionally LOVE my husband and children. This includes meals, emotional support, and mutual spiritual encouragement.

I can’t tell you how many times this little sheet has helped me say “NO” to things that were fine and good, but not the best for our family–LIKE every week. It also helps me see the “ebb and flow” of our life–aka–when I’ve over committed myself and need to rest.

Basically, I set aside an hour a week to jot down my “plan.”

  • I print my guidelines.
  • I pray and ask God to guide me as I “plan” and to redirect my plans as He sees fit.
  • I then plan for my devotional time: what I’ll read and study in Scripture and what devotional books I’m going through. I keep an ongoing “What Do I Know about My God? notebook. I also keep a leather bound notebook for all of my Bible study,notes for teaching or speaking, notes from sermons, seminars, or quotes that impacted me.
  • I try to plan a time to connect with Peter. In this season of life it’s usually either a coffee time or just shopping or doing something mundane together so we can talk.
  • I then mark and plan for “special days” like birthdays or anniversaries.
  • I look at the flyers to make our weekly menu based on what’s on sale or in season.
  • I block out school times.
  • I note doctors appointments, weekly lessons or commitments that I have with the kids.
  • I plan to do something fun with the kids.
  • I plan to do good to someone God has put on my heart by either a phone call, note, visit, or coffee run.
  • I note our ministry schedule and plan to invite people in for fellowship/hospitality if our schedule allows.
  • I plan personal ministry times like blogging, encouraging a friend, watching a friend’s kids, “kitchen table counseling” as God gives me time.

When you write this all down, you’ll see right away where you are out of balance or too busy. As you look back, you’ll KNOW that you lived life according to your ideals instead of just living re-actively and haphazardly.

There you have it. Nothing elaborate, but it works for me.

How do you plan your weeks? Do you struggle to say no to good things so that you can live the best life you can? (I highly recommend Sally Clarkson’s Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love, one of my favorite books of 2015!) Feel free to share any great resources with me! I love to hear how you organize your life.

 

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5 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2015 {AKA Seasons Change}

I’d like to pretend I’ve put a great deal of time into planning for 2016. Although I do have a few goals for 2016, the truth is that I am in a season of adjustment and some days I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water. It’s not because I am running myself ragged or that I am just so incredibly busy that I can’t keep up. It’s more like I’m in a season that I didn’t expect.

Many of you know that I’m caring for a toddler boy right now. We are absolutely in love with him, but, as with all foster care, there are so many unknowns that it can be exhausting and overwhelming. I’ve told my closest friends this, and I guess it’s common in fostering, but I worry more about this little guy than I ever did with my own children. Everything’s fluid, nothing set in stone.

12390965_10153233382060785_5542351305404369267_nThere’s a great deal of unsettle-ness that comes with the fostering territory and I don’t even know if I could explain it if I try. You try to make things “feel” permanent when you know they aren’t. You make every effort to assimilate them into your family and make them feel attached, when you know that it could all change at any moment. Sometimes it feels fraudulent and like a big social experiment. You worry that it will end in hurt for this little guy and it breaks your heart.

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On a day-to-day basis, I’ve come to the conclusion that all I can do is love this little one the best I can. God ordained for Him to be here and what God ordains is always good. I can’t worry about tomorrow even though I find myself daily fighting with the “what ifs” that pop into my mind. We’re all better off for having had this little boy in our life, if only for a season.

I’ve learned several lessons in the last 8 months, all totally unexpected ones.

  1. Acceptance. Most of them include the concept of accepting God’s will when it feels awkward or unstable. Submitting to God’s plan when I wonder if it will ultimately end up hurting my children’s hearts.
  2. Surrender. I think we confuse commitment to God with surrender and they are two totally different animals. I can commit to what I want: the ministries, the priorities, the activities. Commitment puts me in the driver’s seat. Surrender is completely letting go of my own ideals and plans and accepting the path God has laid out for me. It puts God in the driver’s seat.
  3. Time. You never know how God will rearrange your life, so spending time in God’s Word in BULK when you can is an imperative. For the last 8 or so years, I’ve had the luxury of lots of time in the Word. I could sit at my leisure and study because my kids were older and more self-governed. During these years, I went through 2 Journaling Bibles, studied numerous books of the Bible in-depth, took detailed notes that I can return to during this season. I can see now that God was “growing me” and driving down “roots” for the stability I’d need for this season.
  4. Love and do good–no strings attached. It’s easy to love those who love us back, and harder to love those who are unkind or rude, yet God’s love benefits the just and the unjust. Fostering has taught me an aspect of God’s love that I needed to learn again: selfless love. Love that gives time and sacrifices energy for the benefit of another who might never remember you at all. Love that desperately wants to keep the child but prays earnestly for the recovery of the child’s bio-mom at the same time.
  5. Serving. I’ve said this before but serving God doesn’t always look the way you think it will and that’s what’s so exciting about the Christian life. Hospitality and “kitchen table counseling” continue to be the ministries God ordains for me mostly. For those of you who are serving God by caring for toddlers or the elderly and wonder if your service is small compared to what others are doing, ask yourself this question: “If Jesus walked into my home today, would I:
    1. offer him a drink?
    2. cook a meal for Him?
    3. serve Him a snack?
    4. care for Him if He were sick?
    5. comfort Him if He were discouraged?
    6. wash His laundry and press His shirts?

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40

Any service, however menial or insignificant, done with a mind toward’s God is like doing it for Him. This mindset changes you!

Next month on the blog I’ll be referencing a book that will help you study the Bible for yourself:  How to Study Your Bible: Discover the Life-Changing Approach to God’s Word by Kay Arthur. It’s so important that you learn to study God’s word on your own. I know that sounds cliché, but from what I see, most people rely on second-hand knowledge to learn. They read a passage and then “study” the Bible by pouring over the ideas of Matthew Henry or John MacArthur or John Piper. This is not the same as studying the Bible. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good commentary and appreciate all of the wonderful study aids we have at our disposal, but not if they become a crutch so that you don’t have to do the slow, hard, work of studying the Bible for yourself. Anyway, we’ll talk about that more next month.

For now, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned this year? How has God changed you? Share in the comments.

Unfair Ministry: Ministry Wives Edition

Last week I wrote about hard times in ministry. I received more email about totally ridiculous stuff that goes on in ministry, much of it unfair, and it’s horrible and hurtful and my heart goes out to you. A also received several inboxes saying that this series is not just applicable to the ministry but to all women, and I do agree.

But I specifically wrote to my fellow ministry wives because ministry wives often suffer alone and there are certain types of temptations that, although not “uncommon to man”, are often very commonly found lurking in the hearts of good, ministry-minded folks.

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And in order to lead from a position of grace, we need to be aware of the pitfalls that are common in ministry.For instance, because you are a leader, the desire to be respected can morph into a campaign to dominate, demand to be consulted, or to get your own way. Or perhaps, since you end up making many of the decisions about church matters, humility takes a back seat and you no longer consider the needs, sensitivities, or quirks of other congregants, taking the my way or the highway approach, when care and consideration would have been the prudent, others-minded way. And there are too many other temptations associated with ministry to even list.

Ministry wives, life is “unfair” and ministry life is often messy and wisdom would dictate that we keep ourselves in check. We are 100% responsible for our own actions and nobody elses. I suggest that we really *believe* that sin is harmful and that we are blind to our own sin, and we want to avoid it, we need to step back, take heed, lest we fall and “go our own way” becoming a law unto ourselves. Especially in the context of trials. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Do we believe this or do we believe that we’re a in a higher class of sinners than the people we serve?

On top of blindness to our own sin, we are often given opportunities or preference that other congregants might not receive, simply because we married a ministry guy. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. God does assign us our portion and lot.

The trouble comes when we accept opportunities that we are not in any spiritual condition to perform or when we expect preferential treatment and get bent out of shape when overlooked.(pride)

Example: I’ve been offered speaking opportunities or other ministry related opportunities over the years simply because I am married to Peter and because of the blog and there are times when I’ve had just plain said “NO.”

Why? Well, sometimes it’s due to seasons of life or schedules, but other times its because I know the condition of my own heart. I know that life has been busy and I should be learning not teaching. I know that I have been unholy and stubborn and I need to learn submission to God before I step out again. Sometimes I forgo writing here because I need to obey more so that my words have meaning when I speak. Anyone can get up and speak, right? But if your life is not matching up, ladies, what’s the point? Anyone can open their home to strangers and serve, but if you’ve been mistreating your own kids and husband, where’s the authenticity and uprightness in that?

This ministry life is not a show or our stage. If you want to impact your home/church/sphere, let the words you speak and claim to love match your actions. That’s the best contribution/legacy/testimony we can give to our families, children, and church.

During trials, the Lord is concerned about my heart and this should my highest concern as well.

“Search me, Oh God” and inspect my heart, and don’t let me dare run ahead of you in speech, ministry.

Let’s face it, if you’ve been in ministry you know that all people are sinful, like the pastor who views pornography and brushes it under the carpet then gets up and preaches, or the ministry wife who makes jabs about one member and then is quick to get up and praise the Lord out of the other side of her mouth. Sin abounds in all of us and the church is not exempt.

Because sin can so easily go undetected, it’s helpful to ask, “If I were not the pastors’/evangelists’/youth pastors’/missionarys’ wife, would I be asked to do this ministry based on my godly reputation, humble interactions, faithful service, consistent testimony? If not, say no.

If you were not a leadership wife…if you were a lay person in the church…would people–

  • ask you for wise counsel based on your knowledge and application of God’s Word in your own life?
  • confide their troubles and assume that you wouldn’t gossip?
  • say that you know how to control your tongue and are consistent to use it to bless bless and not curse? Am I gushing fresh water one day and brackish the next? (James 3:10-12)
  • say my life is described as “moderate”–my appetites under control. AKA… I can say no to myself. Or do I swing the pendulum with my words,moods, weight, hobbies, spending, time, etc…Is moderation a defining quality or do I swing from one extreme or the other?

These are questions we should ask ourselves because others may not ask or enforce them upon us. Most people assume that you’ve got it all together and that makes it even more dangerous.

We know from God’s Word that true wisdom is seen by living out the gospel humbly, without mean-spirited ambition, boasting, or lashing out with the tongue. Passions and desires under the Lordship of Christ.

That’s why TRIALS are so invaluable to our lives. In my experience, it’s during trials when my guard is down that I can see the true nature of my heart. I get a glimpse of what’s ruling underneath and what motives are moving me to action.

How do you respond when someone says no to you or tells you to wait? How do you respond when confronted with your own sin? Are you still able to answer to/submit to other people or do you believe yourself above that? These are the MINISTRY MOMENTS when God is trying to draw you closer to Himself. He’s asking you to throw off your pride, stop demanding your rights, and humbly follow Him.

God uses UNFAIR ministry, ladies, for our good and His glory.

He allows that woman to give you the cold shoulder to test your humility. He allows that callous remark to see whether you’ll love that unlovely one or no. He wants us to obey His Word through it all of the hurt and unfairness.

Or we can respond by running ahead doing what we think will give us momentary satisfaction and, ultimately, happiness, or by running our mouth, causing a “wildfire” of trouble.

Let’s remember Sarah, Abraham’s wife, when we are tempted to run ahead of God and take matters into our own hands. Although Sarah had faith in God, we see that she doubted God’s ability to keep His promise to give her a son in her old age. That one thing she wanted so badly…and she allowed discouragement to linger and unhappiness to blossom until she took matters into her own hands.

That’s why we CAN’T look at our circumstances. To focus on our trials is to look away from our Faithful God.

Looking to our circumstances too long breeds doubt, despair, discouragement, depression, cynicism, and a sour spirit. Have you ever blurted something and realized how SOUR it was!? I have!

When we look to the Lord, and remember that HE IS OUR PRIZE AND GOAL, we experience the joyful anticipation of His PROMISES.

Scripture is full of examples of people in serious trials who reacted in a godly manner and God’s answers are always the same:

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27 and

“Has the Lord’s arm been shortened?” (Numbers 11:23)

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14)

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31)

Sarai took matters into her own hands and ran ahead of God because she ultimately doubted God and despised His timing.

We all know the disastrous result of that decision and can all take a lesson from her disobedience:

  • Whenever we take control of our circumstance in a way that is outside of the bounds of scripture, we are headed for trouble.
  • When we attempt to get what we want using sinful means, we’re showing that we are no longer hoping in God.
  • When we try to escape our problems, we’re saying that God put us here mistakenly and that we must master our own fate.

God’s timing and ways are good. “His way is perfect.”

When God is ready to act, He will.

Your job is to watch your attitude and heart.

Are you living out the gospel in joyful anticipation of what the Savior will do?

Are you trusting and obeying God’s word, staying inside the bounds of Scripture?

Do you see your gifts in life as coming from God or do you demand them for yourself, living life as though God’s short changed you somehow.

Ministry friends, this is the life of faith. Let’s not copy the “take it into your own hands” method of Sara. Let’s leave it in God’s capable hands.

“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” Heb. 11:11

When life’s not fair and ministry is hard, let’s choose to trust and obey!

Books That Challenged and Changed Me This Year {2015}

 

In case you need some ideas for Santa, here are a few of my favorite books from 2015. These aren’t necessarily new releases, but just books that encouraged and challenged me this year. I’m including the Amazon links below:

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We Would See Jesus. A short, life changing read. Every Christian woman should read this classic.

Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom. Got hurt issues? This is a great resource.

Women of the Word. Excellent resource for learning how to study the Bible for yourself, without relying on commentaries.

The Church Planting Wife. Great read for any ministry wife.

From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. Wonderful read.

Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image. Excellent resource for women who are living for titles or are confused about what Christian womanhood looks like. I adapted this book and taught through some of the topics in our teen girls youth group and I plan to cover the rest of them this winter.

Look and Live. One of the best books on worship I’ve read in a long time. I can’t recommend it cart blanche, as I had a few qualms with it (stylistic), but it’s wonderful for those who feel they are dry spiritually and know they are missing something in their worship of God…aka…they’re worshiping lesser things.

Safe People: How to Find Relationships that Are Good for You. I bristled at the title of this, because I tend to believe that you should get along with the people God sends into your life, but I was glad I read this book. It helped me to prioritize my relationships and find peace with letting go of a few relationships that I knew were no longer healthy because let’s face it–life’s too short to spend energy on people who are toxic.

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living In Paris. A fun read.

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass. Peter read this aloud to me and it was fascinating. It’s based on the life work of Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychologist who, after working with the poor and incarcerated for years, noted a common dysfunctional set of values that seemed to keep these people trapped in a victim’s mindset, hence, trapped in their current circumstances with no hope of change. Excellent read.

A Thousand Miles to Freedom:My Escape from North Korea. Peter read this aloud to us as a family and we couldn’t wait to hear the conclusion of this modern day escape!

What books would you recommend? What books challenged you this year?

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Hard Times: Ministry Wives Edition

I’m sitting by my Christmas tree and the baby is napping and I want to take a few quick minutes to jot down a few encouraging words of perseverance for my fellow sisters in ministry who are hurting right now.

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This week has been rough, ministry wives. You’ve written and inboxed and honestly, my heart hurts for you. I was singing “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” this morning with the congregation and tears flooded my eyes for several sweet friends who have been hurt by the church and are floundering this week.

“And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth, I said…”

We assume that there will AT LEAST be peace in the church, don’t we? And that’s what makes it hurt that much more. Idealism. Expectations. “We’re serving God and now this.” We imagined it one way and the reality is that people are sinful and people disappoint.

I don’t know all the details.

I don’t know who is right or wrong.

I don’t even know WHY this is happening.

But I want to encourage you with a few absolutely grounding truths that we must remember during hard times.

Whatever you are going through, whatever has happened, THIS MOMENT is a peek into your heart and a test of your current spiritual condition.

Ouch. I know that hurts. I know because it’s convicted me many times. But that’s the truth of it.

See, we care about outcomes and setting things right, but God cares about having our heart closer to Him. During this hard time, what are you doing with His Word?

I don’t just mean reading His Word. Treasuring it. Obeying it. Walking in it whether you feel like knocking someone’s teeth out or not.

We want to be heard and understood, but God wants closer fellowship and communion with us. Sometimes He uses trials for this very purpose.

So, today, in your hurt and frustration, how you respond and what you do with God’s Word RIGHT NOW matters. We reap what we sow, and we all know that and have taught it.

Wrap your mind around the basics and fight to think Bible truth.

Is God in control? He is.

Is your life spinning out of control? It is not.

Does God have a plan in all of this and does He expect a certain response from His people? He does.

This may seem like pouring alcohol on a cut, but sometimes hurt and confusion can linger a little too long and morph into anger and bitterness.

When we believe that God is in control and that He is truly doing what is best for us, we can step forward confidently into an unknown (unplanned, unwanted!) future because our good God goes before us.

We can give our emotions to God to rule more easily when we realize that He’s the one in charge.

It always comes back to our heart responses, doesn’t it? And sometimes that can be frustrating.

We want God to change them and intervene for us. Some fire from heaven might be nice. JK!

God does work in His time, but, plot twist–He wants the heart of the evildoer as well as He wants good for you. God is long-suffering.

Don’t believe FOR A MOMENT that the people who hurt you will get away with it. We all reap what we sow.

The proud reap resistance from God. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Imagine what God must think of the proud in His church—a place of humility,unity,and peace– who use it as a place to pamper their pride and use others. Let that sink in. (Think in human terms about how you as a parent would respond to a caregiver who was supposed to nurture your child, and you find out later that they used and abused the child. Righteous indignation, I would say.)

The God who sent His Son to die for you

don’t think for a minute that God won’t deal with that person.

If you have a minute sometime, read Numbers 11:33-34. It’s about how God gave the complaining Israelites the “thing” they complained for. The “thing” in this instance was quail.

Whenever I see a ministry leader who is contentious, I think of this quail story.

Quail= whatever idol is lurking in a man’s heart.

The frustrated fruit of the unmet idol is complaining and discord.

And when a ministry leader is not content with what God has provided or the opportunities He’s given, they either withdraw in self-pity (HOW COME NOBODY RESPECTS ME OR REALIZES JUST HOW WONDERFUL I AM!!?)

or assert and take up arms in their own defense (I AM GOING TO DO THIS WITH ZERO CONSIDERATION FOR YOU OR YOUR WELL BEING BECAUSE I’M ALL ABOUT ME RIGHT NOW)

The ruling belief is that there is not greater cause than SELF and someone has to look out for #1.

This is where it gets ugly. We often hear of church splits over the color of carpet or the stupidest little things…and we wonder how people in “ministry” could act so shortsightedly and self-focused.

How could someone who claims to live for the glory of God pick up arms over decorations or committees or preeminence. The answer is pride and covetousness which is idolatry.

And here’s the thing, hurting ministry wife: GOD allows them to do this.

God doesn’t make people puppets and robots. He gives them free will. So while they look like they are prospering, remember the rest of the story: God often gives them what they want and withdraws, sending leanness to their souls.

God’s not a player. He demands your heart.

You want to step on others? Okay, but disobedience to my Word comes with consequences.

You want to be the big shot, ruling your own little mini-kingdom? Okay, but God’s not coming to your little party. He’ll wait until you are over yourself.

Leanness. God resists. Withdraws.

Pretty scary.

Enough of them. What about us?

We can quickly let ministry hurts overwhelm us and control us rather than allowing the Holy Spirit and the love of God to constrain us.

Bottom line: God is going to show you more of Himself through this trial if you look to Him in your pain. God is the prize and after the tears, I hope you’ll realize how dear this truly is. More of God should be our end goal. And God will use WHATEVER to achieve this. He cares more about your responses and your HUMILITY than He does about almost any other detail.

And know this:

God does move people and lead through the misdeeds of others. He may physically move you, yes, but He wants to lead you into a closer fellowships with Him that you might not have had before if that person had not sinned against you.

And if you’re not sure of the next step in your ministry–

I have seen time and time again how the sin of one person became a conduit of ministry for another.

Perhaps his busy schedule makes him seem unapproachable so people in need come to you, because you are available.

Her sharp, judgmental tongue is a turn off, and hence a conduit that sends younger women to you for safe advice and encouragement. Her moody demeanor is unpredictable, so tired moms look for someone who is joyful and welcoming and seek you out.

My fellow ministry friends, just keep your eyes on the Lord, even in trials. Your ministry might change. Your location might change. But God never changes and right now, and forever, He’s most concerned about your heart.

If your heart is right with God–all the ministry details will work themselves out and you’ll never “lack” the ministry opportunities He wants for you.

Praying for you, ladies!

The Beauty of Humility: A Christian Woman’s Ornament

One of the most beautiful adornments of a Christian woman is the grace of humility. The Christmas story is jam-pack full of examples of humility for us to emulate.

“Humility is simply the disposition which prepares the soul for living on trust.”-Andrew Murray, Humility

A humble woman trusts that God is good and can be trusted with all the aspects of our lives.

“Our humility before God has no value, except that it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow men.
― Andrew Murray, Humility

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How do you know if you are humble before God? The tell-tale sign: she’s humble and gracious to her fellow man. Our regard for God is seen in our treatment of others and our mistreatment of others betrays all of our claims of “loving God.”

Humility colors all of our interactions with other people. It enables graciousness, the ability to act with appropriateness and thoughtfulness in any situation. Those who’ve received grace live gracious lives.

In real life, graciousness looks like this:

A humble woman uses common courtesy. She doesn’t interrupt others because she doesn’t assume that what she has to say is so important that it must be said right now.

She doesn’t make others uncomfortable by asking probing personal questions because she doesn’t assume that people owe her an answer.

She doesn’t seek attention but rather promotes others.

She’s socially sensitive and thinks before she speaks. She considers the feelings of others. “Venting” (verbal vomiting) and telling people off is not something she does.

When she acts in less than courteous ways, she shows that she knows better by making it right and apologizing for her shortcoming.

A humble heart gives rise to kindness, courteousness, and a host of other virtues so that social graces come naturally.

Humility is one of the chief characteristics of Christ’s life in the gospels. We see humility throughout his life, and at his death, but we see it first in His birth.

 

We can hardly wrap our head around the fact that our King, Jesus,  left his throne for a lousy stable in order to save sinful, hateful people. A humbling act for our benefit.

We see Mary’s humility as she says “Yes, Lord,” to whatever God ordained for her life. This meant misunderstanding, scandal, pain, and a life of trials for her, ending in the gruesome murder of her Son on a cross. She signed up for pain knowing that God’s ways are always higher than our plans or temporal pain.

Humility gives up it’s rights and doesn’t demand it’s own way. 

Isaiah 53:6 reminds us that in our flesh, we all want our own way: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

We also see Mary’s humility in her interactions with Joseph. She believes him and follows him to Egypt when he tells her he was warned “in a dream” (eye roll!) “by an angel” to flee. A proud Mary might have asserted her rights or pulled the “I’m the one God chose to carry His Son” card so you’ll listen to me.  But her lifestyle of humility shines through in her interactions with her husband at home.

We see Joseph’s humility as he refused to “get even” with Mary when he found out she was expecting “miraculously.” He could have socially shamed her. But he was godly enough to refuse to give into vengeance. A humble heart is quick to protect like that. It’s the proud who loves to avenge.

We see Jesus humility in His birth. No shiny-floored birthing room. Just a dirty animal place.

And again, we see Mary’s humility as the stable-birth-room is invaded by shepherds right after she just.gave.birth.on.a.dirt.floor and we see her demeanor is not one of “give us a little space” or “who do you think you are barging in like this?” In the noise and excitement, we see she was quiet before the Lord, “pondering” all these thing in her heart.

Where do you find yourself today?

Maybe you think humility doesn’t matter too much because your moments are mundane or menial and considered “unimportant” by the world.

Did you know that the fiber of your character is being woven by every humble interaction you have with your children, your neighbor, your fellow church member, that sick parent you’re caring for?

Did you know that your influence is not determined by a spotlight on a stage or by thousands of followers on social media, but by the tiny, seemingly unimportant words and deeds of your everyday life?

Did you know that the most influential person in the Kingdom is the humblest?

That the strongest is the meekest?

That the One who sees all sees all of your unseen and unnoticed works, words, and actions that you’ve performed on His behalf?

He knows when your hands served as His hands in another’s life.

Did you know that our humble Lord will take up your cause when you are mistreated? That God resists the proud and refuses to bless the works of the self-reliant and self-serving? Call it what you will–ministry, social work, or sacrifice–if pride is present the Lord rejects it. “Pride renders humility impossible.”

“The truth is this: Pride must die in you or nothing of heaven can live in you. Under the banner of the truth, give yourself up to the meek and humble spirit of the holy Jesus. Humility must sow the seed or there can be no reaping in heaven. Look not at pride only as an unbecoming temper, nor at humility only as a decent virtue: for the one is death and the other is life; the one is hell and the other is heaven. So much as you have of pride within you, you have of the fallen angel alive in you; so much as you have of true humility, so much you have of the Lamb of God within you.”

Andrew Murray

This Christmas, we have the opportunity to deal with so many different people. We have ministry opportunities, and family gatherings, we run into friends and neighbors, and even some people we’d rather not spend time with. Let’s make humility a matter of utmost importance and prayer. Let’s let our interactions show that we are under the control of the Master and that we represent Jesus correctly.

Do you need to find humble friends?

It’s counter-cultural to seek out the meek. In our flesh, we want to be associated with the people calling the shots, the loud, assertive, flashy, and popular. But, believe me, befriending the humble woman and finding the women who are dealing humbly with their family and church members is where it’s at. You’ll rarely find them on stage or seeking the spotlight. You may not know what they are doing at all because they don’t have to announce it to everyone. You’ll know them because they’re gracious and courteous in their interactions. They’re not frazzled, but live lives of peace and contentment. They know their God and they’re servants just like Him.

Surround yourself with these lovely women. Encourage them. Learn from them. And as you ponder all the examples of humility this Christmas, ask God:

“Where am I proud?” (great resource here)

“How have my interactions with others not reflected humility and how can I make that right?”

“What steps can I take right now to put pride to death to show my love for God and to have proper relationships with others?”

 

Great Gift Ideas for your Teen {Christmas 2015}

Not sure what to buy your teen? I’ve done my homework and today I’m going to share a few favorite finds with you.

If the teen in your life has a serious hobby like skiing, skating, writing, or painting, then theme related shirts, accessories, mugs, and prints are great ideas.

2015 gift guide

I’m adding Amazon links below for all of you die hard shop-from-home types (me!) but you might be able to get better deals on some of these things on Black Friday.

 

Great Gift Ideas for your Teen

Mini Portable Projector to use with iPhone/laptop/iPad. Perfect for a dorm room!

North Face eTip Texting Gloves because you can’t text with normal mittens on. 😉

iPhone Camera Lens Kit (Make sure you choose the style that is compatible with your phone. Peter bought these for me for Mother’s Day and they were really cool.

Eno Eagle’s Nest Hammock These are big on college campuses as they go up pretty much anywhere. Emily has one and it’s pretty sweet.

ESV Journaling Bible in Blue Flora. I’m on my second Journaling Bible and it’s been so helpful!

Boot Socks Topper Cuff or Boot Socks or Lace Trimmed Knit Leg Warmers

Skullcandy Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

Kindle Fire – Reasonably priced tablet ($49.99)

Amazon Echo– More expensive, but brilliant.  Just ask it anything and it searches the web for you. We had ours set up in the kitchen, and I don’t know how many times I asked it, “Alexa, what time is it in Berlin, Germany?” this summer while Emily was on her Missions Trip.

Jane-A-Day 5 Year Journal if your teen loves Jane Austen.

Puffin-in-Bloom Collection. Just go look. The most beautifully bound set of classics ever.

Of course, flannel pj’s, make up, gift cards, room decor, scarves, jewelry, chocolate, tickets to the symphony, etc…would all be great gifts for teen girls.

And guys might like tickets to a sports event, gift cards, dorm pants, outer wear, tools, and FOOD.

What do you think? What would you add to this list to make it complete? Share your ideas with me in the comments here or on FB. Happy shopping!

 

 

Fear and Faith

Senseless violence and killing. Islamic Terrorists. Scenes I never imagined I’d see in my lifetime playing out on the lovely streets of Paris.

I spent my Friday night watching my Twitter feed, nervously awaiting news of the hostages in the theatre. I heard that they were killing them one by one. My heart sank and my legs felt weak.

Peter and I were out shopping with the kids, trying to go about our night like it was a normal one, walking the mall, eating Thai food with chop sticks, oohing and ahhing over toddler clothes for Brayden, trying to shield my youngest from the fact that the situation was deadly serious because she’s so very afraid of ISIS and already has nightmares about it.

Friday night, I didn’t fall asleep until 2 am, half watching the news, half praying, trying to make sense of the absolutely senseless.

God, in His perfect timing, reminded me of a book I’d read but never reviewed on the blog, by the lovely Trillia Newbell, the author of the book Fear and Faith.

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She asked me to share a little bit about my experiences with fear and that post will be published on her on  her blog on Tuesday. Tuesday, here, I’ll also share some of my favorite quotes from her book, because as I’ve told you before, I am the world’s worst book reviewer. I just love sharing the quotes that especially spoke to me.

I think fear comes naturally for me. I come from a long line of worriers, all the way back to my Italian great grandmother. I can hear her words in her broken English now:

“ma-Sarah, put on your coat. You’re going to catch a cold!” or “Get down! You’re going to break your leg.” or “ma-Eat! You’re going to get sick if you don’t eat the broth.”

Fear is something I had to deal with when my kids were young, and mercifully, God has opened my eyes to my own specific “brand” of fear which was control, especially when it came to my kids. I tell more about that in my article for Trillia’s blog, and after you read it you’ll think I’m a certified crazy woman but suffice it to say, I was living my life as though I was solely responsible for the safety of my children and it was a heavy burden to bear, because I am not God.  It wasn’t until I embraced the idea of God’s sovereignty and goodness in all areas that I was able to relinquish the reins (and my children!) to Him.

Fear manifests itself in so many ways: anxiety, anger, restlessness, indecisiveness, irrationality, stubbornness, etc…

(Side note: the terms fear and worry are such “acceptable” words in Christian circles. We should call it what it is: unbelief, lack of trust, doubting God. It’s that serious and ugly.)

Are you a control freak? Do you get angry when things don’t go your way? Do you have a hard time trusting men or women? Do you find yourself doing and saying things for the approval of others? Do you assume the worst about everyone’s motives? Do you fear the future?

Bottom line: fear issues are trust issues. We don’t think God’s big enough. We don’t think He cares enough about us. We believe He’s shortchanged us and we doubt His love.

We live like orphans when we are the most beloved children of a good God. We live like beggars when we have all the resources we need in Christ. We live like outsiders when God’s invited us into His inner circle to dine and live with Him forever.

Trillia covers so many common fears in this book: fear of man, the future, tragedy, not measuring up, and, hello, other women! 

She then brilliantly unfolds how God’s sovereignty, wisdom, love, and goodness all play out in His plans for our good. She then instructs us to turn all of this truth that we know about God into action as we worship and fear Him.

If you’re struggling to break the grip of fear in your life so that you can walk a life of faith and freedom, I highly recommend this book.

*Post contains affiliate links. I received this book at no cost to review. All opinions are my own.