When You’re in the Trenches

When You’re in the Trenches

Wife, mom, daughter, teacher, blogger, crafter, organizer - but most and best of all, I am a Christian. I am passionate about my family and my God. I am married to my best friend and am blessed with a one year old son who keeps me busy all the time staying at home with him. And I am glad to be in the service of our incredible and awesome God.
Tracy Watts

When you’re in the trenches, it’s hard to see your way out. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel, because you’re not even sure there is a tunnel. It’s hard to keep slogging through and exhausting to keep your chin up. You feel as if you are covered in slime, in mud, in disappointment and despair.

Perhaps you might have lost hope or energy. You might understand in your mind that this is “worth” it, but your heart is weary and burdened.

When you’re in the trenches, you can’t see your progress or the character built. You can’t see the shape of your heart or the influence of your efforts.

What if:

  • Your heart turns out to be right?
  • You are in it alone?
  • After all this work, you don’t reach your goal?
  • Despite the prayers and the tears, you come out empty-hearted and empty-handed?

Reach out your hand, and grasp onto the Father’s hand. Grip it with determination and desperation. Cling to it with the last strength you have.

Realize that, despite what you see, what you feel, what you are suffering, you are only seeing a tiny part. Yours is a small corner and one that you see with a skewed view. Just because YOU cannot see, does not mean that there is nothing to be seen.

Sometimes–no, many times–trust must come before character is strengthened. Faith must come before reason and experience can explain “why.”

Take heart. Take courage. Take perspective.

Think of Elijah. After drought and hunger, persecution and hatred, he comes before God’s presence. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah cries out to God: “And I, even I only, am left and they seek my life to take it away.”

Then God reveals the bigger picture:

He would anoint a new king and put to death those who deserved it and the last words are the ones that must have stunned him.

“Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

You see, from Elijah’s perspective, in the trenches, he thought he was alone. And yet, there were 7,000 others standing with him.

I pray that God helps you to see over those trenches, to see over the horizon, to see that even if you feel you, like Elijah, are left alone–that you can see a bigger part of God’s plan. That just as God helped Elijah, He can help you too. You are not alone.

Family Photo Perfect

Family Photo Perfect

I grew up in Oklahoma and attended Oklahoma Christian University. Right after earning my degree in Music Education I moved to Germany to do mission work for 5 years. During those 5 years, I married my husband and we eventually became parents to our spunky daughter! We settled back in Oklahoma and added an energetic son to our family! I am now a stay-at-home mom who is still very passionate about mission work, Germany, singing, family, and most of all, my relationship with God.
April E
Latest posts by April E (see all)

My family recently had new photos taken…Please join me in a moment of silence.

Why do family photos have to be so stressful? There is usually lots of complaining because someone doesn’t want to wear what I have picked out. Or they would rather be doing anything besides taking photos. There is usually begging, bribery, and threats involved. I told the kids to please just do this for me because I really want a nice family photo.

“Everyone look at the camera and smile!”

“You Will Be Happy For The Photo!”

“Act like you love each other!”

OK, that is extreme, but sometimes it feels like that. When we did our photos recently, my son cried because he wanted to wear something totally different even though it didn’t go at all with what everyone else was wearing. I walked in my daughter’s room to see how far she had gotten when I discovered her still wearing her pajamas, sitting on the floor sulking that she had to wear a dress on a Saturday…the horror! As we were pulling out of the driveway, I looked back and saw a giant hole on the knee of my daughter’s leggings. So in we went to get better leggings, only to not be able to find any.

Honestly, I was surprised that the photo session was successful! Even though it was windy and cold when we took the pictures, the kids did a really good job cooperating!

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This whole situation got me wondering how many times do we do this to God? How many times a day do we find ourselves complaining because of the tasks God has set before us? How many times do I think, “I would rather be doing anything else, than serving someone else?” Sometimes I think we can be so selfish. Unfortunately, I know that I can be, even though I know that isn’t how I want to be or how God wants me to be.

Sometimes we need to just put our selfishness and pride aside to do something for God. Don’t you think that He just wants to see all of His children happy and smiling, helping each other and being thankful for Him and His gifts? It’s not always easy, and we for sure aren’t perfect. But in the end, we will have a beautiful family gathering in heaven. We will forever be grateful for the times we set aside our pride to do what makes God happy.

 

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When You Have Nothing Left To Give

When You Have Nothing Left To Give

Hello. I grew up traveling the world as a military brat. I ultimately felt God's pull to Oklahoma Christian University where I met my husband. We now have 3 beautiful children and have settled in Mustang, Oklahoma.I am a homeschooling mom and with 3 kiddos it is a full time job! I am daily encouraged by God's great patience and grace in my life. In my free time I enjoy reading and crafting.
Laura P

It’s 3:30 P.M. and I am DONE with this day.  How in the world will I make it until Dad gets home?  The baby just won’t take an afternoon nap anymore, which of course means she will be incredibly cranky by 6:00, but that’s far too early for bedtime.  The big kids are in quiet time, but somehow I can still hear every single thing they do or say.  My quiet time is obviously nonexistent since the baby has decided not to nap.  Instead I’ll have a snack that I have to share.  Did I mention I am thirty weeks pregnant with my fourth child?  Or that I home school, so I am solely responsible for the needs of all of my children all day long?

OK, the baby is playing and reading books happily, I’ll get something to drink and catch up on Facebook happenings and my email.  Then I realize I’d better be sure I have everything I need to make dinner.  Speaking of dinner, what time will Dad be home tonight?  I’d better text him to find out.

Me: Hey, how’s your day going?
Him: Blah.
Me: I’m sorry.  Working late?
Him: I won’t be early.

Great.  Another late night.  Another night that my duties just don’t end.  It’s ok.  Deep breath.  Be thankful he has a good job that pays all the bills.

This is the moment my peace begins to crumble.

The big kids get done with quiet time and the battle to clean up their rooms begins.  Everyone is bickering or distracted.  Everyone is hungry and tired of each other.  Here’s the thing: I know what to do in these situations, right?  I mean, I have a degree in child development.  I have an arsenal of clean-up songs and games and quick activities that can give us all a break.  Except all of those things are lost in my pregnant brain…OK, prayer, right?  I can say a prayer; read a verse; have a breath of fresh encouragement to pull from.  Except who can say a prayer or read the scriptures when there’s a screaming banshee baby attached to my legs?

I’ll stop there.  As you can see this scenario is set up for defeat.  Mom is over-tired, over-worked, under-encouraged, and too pregnant!  Obviously not every day goes like this.  Some days the baby will nap, or Dad does come home on time.  Occasionally, everyone can manage to get along.  Some days.  But some days are just hard.  And in that moment, a mother can really start to spiral downward.  Especially when there is no one else there to provide back-up, relief, or just run interference for a while.  Single moms.  Moms of overworked husbands.  Working moms!  Any mom can find herself here.

But take heart, Momma!  There is hope.

Here are some verses I have found helpful and will be referring back to during these particularly turbulent days.

Psalm 120:1

I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.

This is step one!  Call upon the Lord, He will hear you.

1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

Step 2.  Cast your cares upon him.  There is nothing too small or too insignificant for God.  He cares about YOU.

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.


Oh my goodness, yes!  Isn’t it funny how the children’s fighting and the baby’s crying and the mother’s exhaustion can be so symbolically perfect with this verse?  It can so easily feel like the earth is giving way and the mountains are falling into the sea. This verse is a soothing balm to my soul because I know the Lord is my refuge during these times.  He is a safe place for me to rest, if only for a moment!

More Verses of Encouragement

Isaiah 1:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Step 3.  Do not fear.  God will strengthen you and help you.  He has not left you or forgotten you.  You are important to Him!

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Step 4.  You have peace.  After approaching God and casting your cares on Him, He will give you strength and peace to endure.  Praise the Lord for His promises!

Psalm 16:8

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Step 5. Keep your eyes upon the Lord.  I frequently struggle with this step.  If I were able to keep a proper perspective in the beginning, I would not be so easily overwhelmed.  However, we know that the flesh is weak but in God we can be made strong!

hope-for-an-overwhelmed-heart

Encouragement on the Motherhood Journey

I hope that these verses can be an encouragement to you like they are to me.  I find myself dealing with an easily overwhelmed spirit as I enter the end of a pregnancy and exhaustion creeps in.  These verses are a great help to me in those times.  I hope these can be a help in whatever trials you find yourself struggling through during your motherhood journey.

What are some ways that you find renewal during the particularly tough days of motherhood?

What encouraging words would you give to yourself or another struggling mother during the hard times?

 

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Embracing His Love

Embracing His Love

I am a girl who loves to sit with a cup of coffee and daydream. I am most passionate about Jesus, my family, and family ministry. My husband and I live in Oklahoma with our two precious daughters. I spend my days with my girls, discovering and growing alongside them! You can usually find us either in our sunroom, the park, or taking long walks through Target. :)
Kristin J
Latest posts by Kristin J (see all)

Last Thanksgiving my husband’s parents generously hosted Thanksgiving at a condo in Branson so that we could enjoy the holiday festivities at Silver Dollar City. It was truly a wonderful idea! We were very excited about taking our then two-year-old daughter to experience such a fun place!

embracing-his-love-pin

It just so happened that Silver Dollar City’s holiday hours were a tad bit inconvenient for our daughter’s nap schedule and so we went in the evening, a time that is usually not her happiest. In addition the crowds were heavy, which meant we couldn’t let her toddle around very much, and it was so, so cold. As you can imagine, she wasn’t very happy. She cried and cried. My husband’s sweet parents soon took her back to the condo where she could play in a more comfortable setting.

Of course, we were not angry with her for causing stress on our delightful plans. We could see her tiredness and frustration. Understanding her limits as a toddler, we had compassion for her. (As a side note, we really had a great trip and thankfully everyone was able to have a fun time. We just had to work around the limitations of our young daughter!)

The Lord’s Compassion

Psalm 103:8-14 says:

“The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens of the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.”

psalm-103

Do you ever feel distraught over your mistakes? Perhaps you were given a wonderful opportunity to do something marvelous but ended up making a mess of everything. In these times it can be easy to let fear and embarrassment keep us from approaching our Heavenly Father. We might even back away from our church family. It is so easy to be overcome by our pride and insecurity. How easy it is to forget that God loves us as a father does his children, that he understands our limits and frailties.

I’m reminded of the prodigal son. He begged for his inheritance money and foolishly blew it all on worthless things while living a lazy lifestyle. When he humbly returned home with the plan to work as a servant, his father RAN to him and threw him a large party. His son’s return filled him with joy! Christ explained that God’s enthusiasm is the same when one of his precious children returns to him.

Embracing God’s Love and Presence

Our Father God is rich in love for us. We must be kind to ourselves when we mess up. We should humbly seek him at even our most shameful times. He understands. He will welcome us! When we rest in His love for us, we will be able to move past our mistakes and shortcomings. We can dare to do great things for Him without worry and doubt in our way!

So be encouraged, sweet friend! How freeing it feels to know the pressure to be perfect can dissipate when we truly embrace that we are His child, whom he dearly loves.

I love the music video for Andrew Peterson’s song “Be Kind To Yourself.”.” Two of his children are featured in the video with him, and the affirming words of his unconditional love for them are a gentle reflection of God’s love for us. I hope it will encourage you today if you are struggling with insecurity or past mistakes. God loves you so deeply! Embrace his presence today!

Click HERE to watch “Be Kind to Yourself”.

*A discussion topic found in The Lifegiving Table Experience by Sally Clarkson inspired this post.

 

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Jesus is Needy

Jesus is Needy

I am a certified fitness instructor and have been teaching group fitness classes for over 22 years. I am also a board certified holistic health counselor with a degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. I am 48 years old with a 25 year old daughter and a 23 year old son. My husband Chris and I have been married for 28 years. I have been a member of the Church of Christ my entire life as well as my mother, father and both sets of grandparents. I am the owner of a local food service based business and currently teach conditioning classes here in the Edmond area. I have been a strict vegetarian for many years but I will walk 10 miles barefoot in the snow for a good piece of chocolate! ;)
Julie W
Latest posts by Julie W (see all)

What Would Our Reaction Be?

Many of us attend congregations where members’ various needs are brought publicly before the church. At times there are prayer requests. Other times, families in crisis bring their financial burdens before the church, having nowhere else to turn for assistance.

I often feel the tug of the Holy Spirit during those moments and an ache in the pit of my stomach. These are human beings, God’s precious creation, and my need to help is compelling.

What would our reaction be if Jesus himself walked down the aisle, stood in front of His people, and proclaimed His own neediness?

Would we even know it was Him?

If we did recognize Him, would we all wonder what possibly the Son of God might need from us?

jesus-is-needy-pin

Are We Benevolent or Judgmental?

The topic of benevolence in the church is one thing, but benevolence to strangers seems to be a real hot-button issue with Christians today.

  • We are inundated with homeless people at every street light and corner.
  • We come face to face with some sort of cardboard sign at least once a week. If you live in a big enough city, a stranger with a need might even approach you directly.
  • What to do in that split second, what to do with that uncomfortable opportunity, what to say or not to say…sometimes you only have the length of a red light to make your judgment call.

How often do we find ourselves passing judgment on someone? Have we ever said these words to ourselves?

  • If that man can stand out there all day in the scorching heat, surely he can get a job.
  • This is just one of those scams, all these corner people working together to swindle honest people out of their hard-earned money.
  • If I give them money, they are just going to turn around and buy alcohol or drugs.
  • She is wearing nice clothes and those shoes don’t look like a poor person’s shoes, so I am going to pass.

As the Bible clearly tells us, God chose individual, unique spiritual gifts to give each of us. Benevolence happens to be one of mine, and He also chose this specific gift for my father.

Learning Benevolence from my Father

I could never tell all of the many things I have seen my father do to help total strangers. However, I can tell you that his complete lack of judgment in each situation leaves me in awe and constantly striving toward that same goal. 

Breakfast at Denny’s

Once, our family was eating breakfast at a local Denny’s.  After we paid and were heading to the car we realized my dad was no longer behind us. We found him sitting on the curb next to a very fragrant homeless man with a bicycle. My dad talked with the man, then patted him on the back and started walking toward us. He asked us to find something to do for a few minutes because he was still a little hungry and wanted another breakfast. He then took the man inside, ordered him a huge meal, and sat with him while he ate.

Playing Santa

Another time, near Christmas, my dad came home and asked my sister and me to gather some of our very best toys. He said that someone else could really use them. We bought a Christmas tree at a nearby tree lot, tied it to the roof of our car, and headed to a stranger’s home.

When we arrived, a young girl and a grade-school-aged boy answered the door and invited us in. The small house had nothing that looked like Christmas to my sister and me. My dad brought in the tree and some much-needed decorations as the kids’ mother came around the corner. My sister and I were startled to see that the mother’s arm was amputated just below the shoulder, but my dad hugged her and acted as if he never noticed. We put up the tree, left some of our toys, and my dad gave the mother some “secret” money to buy some things for her kids for Christmas.

Over the years, my dad helped many people. 

The people and their needs were never the same–but my dad’s attitude and enthusiasm always remained constant.

I think of the very few times that my earthly father has been in need and I can promise you that on those few occasions I have moved heaven and earth to help him! Why? Because for me he is the giver, he is the need-meeter, he is the symbol of hope and love to the people he helps so when it is his turn to be in need, I run to his aid.

Helping Others as if it were Jesus

Now, let’s go back to our church service with our Lord standing front and center proclaiming His neediness. 

We may think of it in hypothetical terms but according to Jesus himself it is NOT. Matthew 25 starting in verse 45 (NlV) clearly states:

And he will answer, “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”

I know what some of you are thinking and it’s an OLD argument. When Jesus states “brothers and sisters” we take that as only Christians and Christ-followers.

Scripture Speaks to Us All

As convenient as that might be and more comfortable for us, it simply is not true. Let’s ask Jesus what He means and HE will clear things up. Verse 44 says:

“Then they will reply, Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?”

This scripture is all encompassing and speaks to all mankind.

Just like my father did, next time you come face to face with a cardboard sign or a dirty, smelly person you would rather not help, try to see them through the goodness of Christ.

matthew-25-44

See Christ Himself in need.

Run to His aid as fast as you can!

Why?

  • He stopped in a crowd and touched a sister and healed her.
  • He noticed when others were hungry and fed them.
  • He wiped a tear from a sister’s eye and His own when His best friend lay in a grave.
  • He touched ten diseased men with healing, knowing only one would be grateful.
  • He looked a humiliated, desperate, sinful sister in the eye and defended her without condemnation.
  • And then He opened His arms and gave us His life.

How could we not run to meet His every need?

Putting Words into Action

I am very passionate about helping others, but it’s also a subject I work on. Keeping my heart and mind right while meeting the needs of strangers is anything but simple!

keeping-my-heart-and-mind-right-while-meeting-the-needs-of-strangers-is-anything-but-simple-1

 

A few weeks ago I was heading to work. I noticed a woman standing at the on-ramp with a sign. I was going the opposite direction so I said to myself, “When I go home, if she is still there, I will stop and see what she needs.” Of course, my meeting ran long and she was gone. The next day I saw her again. This time a man in a suit was talking with her and handing her a card of some type.

I thought maybe that was a good sign and she might be getting some assistance. I hoped he was able to help her because I didn’t want her to have to stand out in the 100-degree heat all day.

Determining to Help

At the end of the day, my heart melted when I saw that she was still at the on-ramp. Quickly, I drove home and told my husband that I wanted us to head back over there with some food and see what we could do.

I pulled up to an old gas station and walked to where she was standing. I told her that I brought a bag of groceries in case that might help in any way.

She practically jumped into my arms, wrapping both of her arms tightly around my neck. She said that they had broken down and were just trying to get enough gas money to get back home to Colorado. I asked her where her car was and she said it was in the gas station parking lot. I told her to walk back with me and we would fill her car up.

The Ground Shifted

As we walked behind the station, the scariest van I have ever seen came into view with two equally scary-looking men inside.

We had brought our puppy with us. Worried that the puppy would overheat, I grabbed her out of the car. That’s when the ground shifted under my feet.

She turned and saw the puppy and said, “Oh! Would you please let my kids pet your puppy?” KIDS??? I said “sure” as we walked toward the van. Two boys and a little girl, heads sopping wet with sweat, squealed delightedly as the puppy licked their faces.

One of the men even started talking in a cute voice and got a couple of licks. As they were finishing up on the gas I walked back and put the puppy in the car. The lady followed me with an old, cover-less book in her hand. After giving me a third huge hug, she said the book was one of her favorite things. She had read it cover to cover many times but begged me to take it. That she was willing to part with such a treasured possession almost broke my heart!

Lesson learned for me!

It looked like just another dirty, sweaty person with a sign but underneath was a desperate mother with three children baking in an old, filthy van for three days just needing someone to see past her and see the real her, the JESUS her!

Have you ever been in a position where you had to set aside your judgments to help someone?

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

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A Refuge of Hope for the Struggling Soul

A Refuge of Hope for the Struggling Soul

Follow Me
Melissa is an Okie with a Texas heart. She is a wife and a mother of four. After having taught in the classroom for 8 years, she now happily finds herself as a stay-at-home mom. In any spare time, she enjoys leisure reading and also enjoys writing on her blog (chroniclesofakeeper.com). Out of all the little adventures of life - her greatest joy is found in her relationship with God. Walking in His grace, living in His peace and resting in His redemption is something she is very passionate about sharing with others.
Melissa W
Follow Me

To understand Him is to understand hope. To understand His gift of mercy is to understand His gift of grace. To understand our continued state of rescue is to understand our place of refuge. 

Abide.

Lately, nothing soothes my heart and mind more than the moments where I find myself sitting still and abiding with my Lord. There, I draw comfort and strength. I focus on Him and who He is as Father, Son, and Spirit. In the place of full abiding is where I can breathe Him in, refreshing and perfectly good.

Abide in His refuge.

Who He is completely captures me. Though I should want to recoil in shame, I am nonetheless drawn into His presence fully aware of the grace and mercy covering me. The very essence of my continued rescue is found in those moments when I rest in Him, and the exceptional standard of hope that is found in Him is given during these moments. Words from the Psalmist come to mind as I recall the image of refuge, a refuge found in those moments of abiding.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

Psalm 46:1-3

Abide in His Dwelling Place

The Throne Room of Heaven, the Holy of Holies. It is a place to where I move beyond seeking escape. It is a place where I can come to Him and it is intimate, beautiful, and holy. Holding fast to Jesus, I can enter His presence with reverence and with rest. This combination of feelings produces an attitude which depicts the place of His dwelling. Here grace envelops me all the more, so wherever sin has tempted and tried…sin finds full defeat.

Abide in the Rescuer

Through the God-Son, there is no manner of sin that was not defeated through His perfection, through His death, and through His resurrection. So, in all the ways fleshly desires hound us and in all the way sin’s aroma seeks to draw us in, we can hold fast to the knowledge of a Rescuer who felt the same temptations and conquered them.  His accomplishments over–not just the very nature of sin, but as well as its enticing, tempting ways–are a victory we can claim. This continued state of rescue is what heals, strengthens, humbles, and produces an immense sense of awe.

“Therefore, since we have such a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:14-16

 

Abide in Jesus

Maybe, like me, you sometimes feel the heaviness of struggle. Perhaps you empathize with Paul when he said, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” There is hope. For the believer, hold firmly to Him. Approach the throne of grace with the confidence you have as one who has been redeemed by, and through, Jesus Christ. He is our help and our refuge in time of need, in time of temptation and struggle. His grace binds us to Him completely. Hold on to that and find rest in Him. While on this side of heaven we are not free from temptation, but we are free from its chains–through Christ alone. Abide in Him, for in Christ our holiness is found.

 Teach my song to rise to YouWhen temptation comes my wayAnd when I cannot stand I'll fall on YouJesus, You're my hope and stay.Lord I Need You (Matt Maher)
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