Remembering the Blessings

Remembering the Blessings

It’s 2:30 PM.

My girls didn’t take a nap. My older one is being a stinker, and the baby just wants to be held. I take a selfie of my frustrated expression so I can pour it all out on social media.

As I’m writing out the text for my post I immediately delete and put down my phone.  A couple of hours later I catch my daughters sweetly looking at each other. I take a picture and post it, reflecting on how the days are long, but the years are short. I do this because I want to remember the blessings of the day more than the frustrations. 

Remembering the Blessings or the Frustrations

I can’t tell you how many days the above scenario plays out.  I’m not saying it’s wrong to share the frustrations of every day life with young children. In fact, sometimes I DO share! Here is the thing though.

Every day will have frustrations- children or not!  Years from now, I want to think of these days with my little girls as sweet. Of course I’ll remember the struggles with potty training, illness, and defiant behavior, but I hope my overall remembrance of these days will be positive.

I want to remember the giggles and snuggles. The pitter patter of small feet hopping across the house and the way she crawls backwards instead of forwards. The funny little words they say and the proud way they sing their songs. Days where we got to play, read, and relax. Days when personality popped. Days we found friendship. Days lessons were learned. Days of togetherness.

The reflection that I want to have in the future begins with the present. I have a say in how it goes! I must ensure that I’m noticing the good, and looking for perspective in moments of difficulty.

Let’s season our social media posts with gratitude. 

Yes, hard things happen, and sometimes we want to share. That’s okay. Let’s keep perspective though. 

Let’s do all we can to create great days so that when we look back, we won’t only remember the struggles of our current phase, but also our blessings.

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

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A Call for Unity Among Younger and Older Women in the Church

A Call for Unity Among Younger and Older Women in the Church

Discussions over unity in the church are often in regards to denominations, but what about age? Do you feel unified with those in the church who are a different age than you?

The Attitude between Younger and Older Women

It is tempting for those of us who are younger to ignore the words and ways of those who’ve gone before us. We might cast older women off as irrelevant if they don’t see as we do.

“The way they do things are outdated,” we might think.

This attitude can make older women feel like they aren’t respected.

This is not completely the fault of the younger ones. It can be challenging to adapt to new ways, and sometimes change is frowned upon. Sometimes young women really don’t know that they are invited to play a part too, or perhaps the nature of the gatherings are inconvenient for those with children in the home.

This can make the younger women feel like they aren’t respected.

It can go both ways.

This is not how God wanted his daughters to relate to each other. It must make him sad to see this divide that happens so often.

Erasing the Divide between Younger and Older Women

Paul gives us some thoughtful advice in his letter to Titus.

“But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching. Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered.” Titus 2:1-4

God’s church is multi generational, and he designed it so that the younger might be encouraged by the older in their faithful living.

As Younger Women…

This means that as young women, we need to embrace the insight that the women who’ve gone before us have to offer. It means that perhaps we step outside of our comfort zone and attend that Ladies Night or bible class- even if we are going to be the youngest one there. We can always bring a friend with us.

When I’ve opened my heart to my older sisters in Christ, I have found welcoming arms, listening ears, mentors, help when I’ve needed it, and best of all, enduring friendship. I’ve also found that these women are usually accepting of new ideas and love to see younger ones get involved. If we are respectful of what their life experiences have taught them, we can learn quite a bit! When you see older women, go and talk to them. Invite them over to your house for coffee or tea. Bring a meal to them when they have had surgery. Offer them some baby gear to borrow when their grand babies are visiting. Listen to them. Pray for them.

As Older Women…

For any older women reading this, I ask that you not give up on us younger women. Seek us out. Ask us about our ideas. Let’s work together to blend our women’s ministry with changing generations. Offer your advice to us in loving and encouraging ways. Smile at us when our toddler is acting up in worship service. If you have it in your heart, offer to watch our kids so that we can go out with our husbands. Babysitting is very expensive these days so most of us aren’t finding alone time for our marriage. Invite us over for coffee or tea. Tell us about the struggles you faced as a young wife and mother, and share how you’ve grown in Christ. Listen to us. Pray for us.

We are All Both Younger and Older

There is always someone younger we can encourage, and there is always someone older whom we can be encouraged by. Let us strive for unity as women in the church. Let us be sisters in Christ, encouraging each other to live godly lives!

May those who don’t know Christ, see Him in our bond with each other, and want to be a part of the family. May we bring glory to God together!

 

 

Finding His Eyes of Grace

Finding His Eyes of Grace

When was the last time you felt yourself losing your patience with someone? Was it on the freeway when a stranger cut you off? Was it with your kids during the difficult hour before dinner? Was it with your husband when he irritated that last nerve you had in you? Oh, there are plenty of opportunities to practice patience in our lives! More than patience though, what we really need are eyes of grace.

Using Eyes of Grace Instead of Judgment

Do you ever find yourself judging others? Of course you might not want to admit this, but I’m willing to bet that all of us have. Maybe it was the single mom who walked into church halfway through the sermon with her two children, all of them looking sloppy and making noise. Maybe it was the teenager wearing a “dress” that should be a shirt. Perhaps it was the older woman who never has a kind word to say. Yes, there are often times when it’s tempting to be judgmental. What we really need are eyes of grace. 

Do you suffer from insecurity? Or wish that you looked different or had nicer clothes? Do you feel defeated before you even begin to try something new? Do your failures and shortcomings speak louder than any victory? If so, sweet friend, you are not alone, and you are desperately in need of eyes of grace.

Grace is life-changing. Of course, the best example of grace is from our Father in Heaven.

 

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies us intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:4-6

Undeserved Grace

The Lord envies for our hearts intensely, yet time and time again we give in to the world. At least I do–I can’t speak for you. What a comfort to know that God extends me more and more grace. Grace I do not deserve. But really, grace is never deserved, it’s a gift we are given because we are loved so greatly. God’s eyes are full of grace when he looks on his children. As a daughter trying to be more like her Father, I must also try to see myself and others through His eyes of grace. 

 

When we exchange our pride for eyes of grace, we see ourselves not just for who we really are or who we want to be, but for who we are in Christ. This is not a place of insecurity but a place of victorious security! 

As we interact with others if we exchange our judgmental thoughts with eyes of grace we will see others the way God sees them. We will look on their disposition with love and understanding. This does not mean that if we notice a sin in their life that we accept their sin, just as I don’t want to accept the sin in my own life. What it means is that we see their heart, and seek to lovingly nurture it.

When our patience runs thin, and we exchange our anger for eyes of grace, we will remember to let the Holy Spirit shine through us in those times. Mercy and forgiveness will be on our hearts because we know that we’ve received it often ourselves.

 

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Recite Before You Respond

In the book Toddlers on the Move by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller I’m learning lots of tips for staying patient, as that’s a needed skill with a toddler! They suggest when you find yourself turning angry to recite the fruit of the spirit before you respond.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23

 

You see, we can’t offer this wondrous grace on our own. We are only human, and we most definitely fall short. But if the Holy Spirit is living in you then you’ve got His eyes of grace living in you. You must call upon the Spirit and beg that you see through HIS eyes of grace.

When we use His eyes of grace it reminds us that we want to treat others and ourselves the way Jesus would. The best way to do that is to let the Holy Spirit’s fruit pour out from us.

Eyes of grace–we all want to be seen through them–and the good news is that we all are.

But he gives us more grace. (James 4:6)

 

Am I the Critic or the Worker?

Am I the Critic or the Worker?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;  who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

 

– Theodore Roosevelt

The hit TV reality show “American Idol” was in its prime during my high school years. Remember those days? I avidly watched this singing competition and my favorite judge was Simon Cowell. I felt sophisticated whenever my thoughts aligned with his, as if I were somehow superior to those on the stage.

In reality, I was just a girl sitting on the couch.

A Critic of More than just a TV Show

If I’m honest with myself, I can see that my critical nature goes beyond my thoughts toward televised talent competitions. I’ve been critical of others and of myself countless times. This critical spirit has kept me from taking leaps of faith, pursing dreams, and even serving others. Meanwhile, others are putting themselves out there, growing, and accomplishing. I greatly regret remarks I’ve said and thoughts I’ve had throughout my life.

As Teddy Roosevelt so eloquently put it, “It is not the critic who counts…” 

When I think about the days Jesus spent on earth walking alongside man, he had plenty of opportunities to be critical. He could have presented himself pompously and rebuked all who came to him. Jesus was perfect; He was God’s son, and our ways were with such error.  He didn’t hold his head high though, did he? Instead, he offered grace upon grace. He saw the ones who were downtrodden and raised them up. Yes, at times he did correct, but he did it out of love, while giving opportunity for repentance and change. As he traveled from place to place serving others, Jesus was willing to dirty his feet. Christ desired his church to be devoted to love and service, not criticism.

A Time for Criticism and a Time for Grace

There will be times for correction. Sometimes we will need to evaluate and address what’s stagnant. Other times will be times to call for change. How is our attitude toward each other through all of this?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:12-14

So now we must ask ourselves, “How are we clothed?” Are our words dressed with complaints? Do our ideals hold back our noble actions, as we wait for perfection? Do we put others down, only seeing their rough spots?

I want to be dressed in the virtues of Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. These verses remind me to roll up my sleeves and get to work, whether under perfect or imperfect circumstances. As the old song goes, “I want to be a worker for the Lord.”

Kingdom Worker, Not Kingdom Critic

I’m thankful for the gracious words in 1 Peter 4:8: Love covers a multitude of sins. Because this love covers even my own sins, I can put down the self-criticism that often holds me back. None of us will be perfect. But if we dwell on our mistakes, we will never move forward. Kingdom work cannot be done by only a few. God calls all of us to labor. We need each other.

God calls us to be workers, not critics.

I’m so thankful for grace. It’s such a wonderful replacement for criticism. Don’t you agree?

 

 

 

Hearts of Good Soil

Hearts of Good Soil

God’s word is powerful.

It has the power to stir our hearts and change our lives.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:10-11 (emphasis mine)

 

Yes, God has purpose for His words, and His purpose will indeed be met.

I think it no coincidence for the words that follow this declaration….

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown…”  Isaiah 55:12-13

Might that be part of His purpose? Yes, my friends, I think so. In the year 2016, we know even more of God’s word than the people of Isaiah’s time–we’ve seen the Christ! We know the rest of the story. As Christians, we know that God’s word should lead us to joy, peace, and worship. We do not always receive it that way though. Jesus knew this and he gave us a great lesson in Matthew 13 to help us understand the role we play in receiving God’s word.

Hearts of Good Soil Plus Other Types

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, the seed fell among several different situations:

  1. Seed fell on the path, and was eaten up by birds.
  2. Seed fell on rocky places without much soil. These seeds sprouted but had no room to take root with such shallow soil, and s0 were scorched and withered by the sun.
  3. Seed fell among thorns, which choked the plants as they grew.
  4. Seed fell on good soil, and produced a crop even greater than what was sown.

Jesus ended this with the moral of the story being, “He who has ears, let him hear.”

 

Of course, the disciples wanted more explanation. (I’m glad they did because I appreciate the further details Jesus gave them in response!)

  1. Seed on the path — When anyone hears God’s word but does not understand it. The evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart.
  2. Seed on the rocky places — The man who hears the word and at first receives it in joy but doesn’t have any root. Then when persecution and hard times come, he quickly falls away.
  3. Seed among the thorns — The man who hears God’s word, but the worries of his life and deceitfulness of wealth choke him and he is unfruitful.
  4. Seed on good soil — The man who hears AND understands God’s word. He is fruitful and produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.

 

A Mixture of Soils

As a I look at these different spots for the seed to go, I know there have been times in my life where I’ve been in all of those places. Times when my lack of understanding drew me further away from truth, or caused my devotion to give way when temptation came upon me. There have also been times when I didn’t understand the greater picture of God’s word, and the troubles of life spoke louder than the peaceful and joyful truth. All of that comes from not truly understanding God’s word.

I can not help but think of Isaiah 52:12-13 (above) as I reflect on the seed sown on good soil. When we open our mind and heart to hearing and understanding God’s word we will be full of purpose, joy, and peace. Our lives will be productive in glorifying God, unlike the seed on the rocky places or the seed among the thorns.

The farmer sowed seed for a purpose: to produce a plentiful crop. Only the good soil was able to fulfill that purpose. In the same way, God has an intended purpose for us, but unless our hearts are like the good soil we won’t be able to fulfill it.

 

matt 13

 

What type of soil are you in right now?

Are you prepared to hear and understand all God’s word has to offer you?

Hearing and understanding God’s Word will help us find joy and peace, and when our heart is in the right place, it will also compel us to be fruitful believers.

His Word gives us purpose. 

Oh, how I long to be good soil. I want my life to echo Paul’s cry in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “His grace to me was not without effect.” I want to not just hear God’s word but understand it and live it out.

Father God,

You are so wonderful to us. Thank you for giving us your Word! Help us to have hearts of good soil–to truly hear and understand your Word so that we might fulfill your purpose for us. Help us to find joy and peace in your Word, and may that stir us to worship and to live fruitful lives for your glory!

It’s in the name of Jesus Christ we pray, 

Amen

His word gives us purpose.

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