Ali R

Hey! While most of my life was spent in Colorado, I am happy to now call Oklahoma my home. I am amazingly blessed to have a supportive and God-fearing husband who is also a terrific dad to our four kiddos (who we had in a 3 year 9 month time frame). I love to drink coffee, sing, hear people’s stories and have dance parties. I am passionate about my relationship with Jesus and desire to share that gift with every person that I meet. My hope is that I can encourage someone today with and through the Word of God and His steadfast love. ::psalm 27:4::

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How Will You Respond?

How Will You Respond?

Ali R

Hey! While most of my life was spent in Colorado, I am happy to now call Oklahoma my home. I am amazingly blessed to have a supportive and God-fearing husband who is also a terrific dad to our four kiddos (who we had in a 3 year 9 month time frame). I love to drink coffee, sing, hear people’s stories and have dance parties. I am passionate about my relationship with Jesus and desire to share that gift with every person that I meet. My hope is that I can encourage someone today with and through the Word of God and His steadfast love. ::psalm 27:4::

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How Will You Respond

 

“Baby, you need to stop getting upset at all the small things and reacting so poorly when things get hard.  You have no control over what happens or how people treat you.  The only thing you have the power to control is your response and attitude.  You can let those small things ruin your day and ultimately lead to poor choices, or you can choose to be joyful and know in your heart that you are doing the right thing and actually growing as a person from it.  I know it seems hard at times, but all you have to do is close your eyes…take a deep breath…and ask God for help.  I promise, He is listening and wants to help you. You weren’t meant to do this without Him. You can’t do this without Him…”

The Same Struggles

Each word I spoke scraped several sensitive areas inside my heart before coming out of my mouth.  Here I was, feeling beat down from circumstances of the day, instructing my daughter to let go of all the same little things to which I was tightly gripping. Sure, what I had been struggling with seemed to be on a greater level, but are our battles really all that different?

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“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all…”

1 Corinthians 10:12-13a

You see, friends, when we remove all the smoke and mirrors disguising the core issues, our struggles are no different than our children’s struggles.  After all, fear is fear…jealousy is jealousy…insecurity is insecurity…doubt is doubt…sin is sin.  I think too many times we try to justify our reactions or complicate situations more than they ought to be, when it really just comes down to the struggle between flesh and Spirit.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind controlled by sinful nature is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

–Romans 8:5-6

A Choice in the Way We Respond

So just as we give our children a choice to do what is right and respond in a Christlike way, God has given us that very same choice.  We can choose to respond in our flesh and in our own strength, or we can “close our eyes…take a deep breath…and ask God for help” because “I promise, He is listening and wants to help us. We weren’t meant to do this without Him. We can’t do this without Him.”


 “… And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

-I Corinthians 10:13b

 “Casting all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7


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The Grace-Filled Marriage

The Grace-Filled Marriage

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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In a Christian marriage there is a goal to put God first, but I’ll be honest–my husband and I didn’t really know what that meant when we got married. We knew we wanted to honor God in our life together and be part of a church family, but we really didn’t know the extent we’d be called to put God first.

At the beginning of our marriage we were consumed with personal needs. We’d read all kinds of marriage books talking about needs and love languages and respect, and while we tried hard to please each other, we got upset when we didn’t feel the same effort in response.  Now, the lessons in those books are great–but we didn’t have the right mindset. We needed a mindset of grace if we were ever going to really put God first in our lives. Thankfully, over the last couple of years we’ve learned more about how to live a grace-filled marriage and it’s made such a wonderful impact on our life together.

kristin's wedding

Here is the new foundational truth for our marriage:

Our relationship with God is more important than our relationship with each other. This is how we truly put God first in our lives and in our family.

Now, you might not like the way that sounds but hear me out—

Supporting each other on your individual walks with God is the most important thing you can do for your marriage. 

 

When your spiritual life becomes top priority you think differently. Your mission in life is no longer about your happiness on earth but your eternity with God–and this affects your marriage in a good way! When you are focusing on your eternal destination more than your current one you will be a better spouse. How do I know this? Well, focusing on my eternal destination means that I’m striving to be like Christ, and who can love my husband better than Christ? My best love for my husband will be fruit from my relationship with Christ.

 

“Every marriage goes through moments of anger and temporary failures. But you must determine your goal. What matters most: winning arguments or resembling Christ?” – Francis Chan (You and Me Forever) 

Francis Chan

 

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to resemble Christ. That’s way more important to me than making sure my needs and love languages are met. I’m not saying love languages and meeting needs are bad–they can be a very good thing when you are putting your desire to please Christ above your desire to please yourself. Then you will use those methods as God intended–as a way to serve your spouse.

Now, as wonderful as all that sounds we still have a little problem.

Are you still with me? My husband and I have a very tricky enemy working against us and he can use those needs and love languages as a stumbling block. Sometimes our spouses don’t meet our needs and don’t speak our love language and then what?? How will we respond?

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

The devil is looking to devour me. The devil is looking to devour my husband.

 

When a spouse messes up (no matter how insignificantly), you can bet your bottom dollar that Satan is on the hunt for victory. He’s watching how we will respond. This is why we need to lavish our marriages with grace.

Why? For us it’s simple.

Because the devil will NOT gain victory in our household.

No, he will not get an ounce.

Christ gets all the power, all the glory, and all the victories in our house. 

 

So what do we do when the devil is prowling at our door? How do we let Christ get the glory in our home? Well first, we stay on our guard and know who our enemy is! It’s really easy for me to feel brokenhearted when things aren’t going my way. In return, I can act pretty ungodly, treating my poor husband like he is my enemy. I know that my husband has triggers too, times when the devil is crawling at his feet. There are going to be misunderstandings and times when we mess up and end up hurting each other.

However, Satan is our enemy in these times. It’s not my husband. It’s not me. Knowing that Satan is the enemy makes it easier to extend grace to each other because we know that we are each on the pursuit of holiness. We want to encourage each other on this process, not get in the way. We want Christ to come first in our marriage. This means that we want to be like Christ and we want to show Christ’s love to be fruitful in our marriage. We want God to take the victory, and he does! God takes the victory every time we set our personal needs aside and extend loving grace in His name!

Live a grace-filled marriage.

When you and your spouse find yourself at odds, offer grace. Once you extend grace, you can then demand the enemy leave your home. If you’ve seen the movie War Room, then you remember that powerful scene where Elizabeth Jordan literally yells at Satan to get out of her house–she even yells him out of her front lawn! There is something to be said for verbally voicing Satan to leave. It shows we really mean it and we want him to hear it! Also, then you should pray.

We can’t fight the enemy on our own. We need God’s help. So get down on your knees -together or alone. Beg God to fight the enemy out of your life and your household.

Let God do all the fighting in your marriage.

“God will fight for you; you need only to be still.”- Exodus 14:14

Let God claim the victory in your grace-filled marriage.

Exodus 14:14

Ten Years Ago, We Fell in Love

Ten Years Ago, We Fell in Love

Elizabeth P

Elizabeth P

I am a recovering Army brat who loves to travel and start new adventures. My handsome husband and I met at Oklahoma Christian University and he whisked me away to Kansas. So, I bought some ruby red high heels and made Topeka my home. I have a rough and rowdy Princess 4-year-old girl, amazing twin boys (almost 3) and a newborn baby girl who all make every day an adventure. We are grateful to be part of an amazing church in Topeka who regularly challenges and encourages our whole family. I have been both a full-time working mom and a stay-at-home-mom and/or both at the same time at one point or another. I am constantly seeking God’s wisdom on “balancing it all” and following His plan for my life, not mine.
Elizabeth P

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Note: Our story is our story; marriages can be quite different and face unique challenges. We just hope to encourage those with what we’ve learned in our life.

Best Decision of My Life

On Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I will celebrate more than ten years of marriage. We were very nearly babies when we wed–I was twenty years old and he was twenty-one. We were very grown up, or so we thought.

Honestly though, despite being young, it was the best decision we ever made. I remember hearing people who had been married for twenty years say they were more in love than ever with their spouse. At the time, that concept made no sense to me. I couldn’t imagine being more in love with this guy.

We dated for three years, half of which was our engagement.  Despite my “plan” to have a career before I entered into a serious relationship, we fell in love pretty early on in our relationship. We attended a Christian liberal arts university and I was bound and determined not to be there for my “MRS.” However, God had other plans for my life.  We married before our senior year of college. After we graduated, we moved out of state so my husband could attend law school in his hometown.

We Fell In Love, Yet I Was Miserable

Year one was a breeze. I thought marriage was not hard.

Year two was the most stretching year of our relationship.

He was in law school, I was in a new town, surrounded by everyone who knew my husband and his family but not me, and I was working but incredibly lonely. What happened to college where all our friends had time to hang out every day and come over any time? How fair was it that I was being a “grown up” starting my career while he was still in school? Why was this town so small and why is there no decent retail? These were all things my twenty-two-year-old self was struggling with daily.  I was married to the love of my life. I worked in my degree field in a job that was a great fit. And yet, I was miserable.

I did not understand why the second year was so much harder. For goodness’ sake, we were in love! We had even gone through two premarital counseling sessions for “extra-good premarital preparedness training.” Because I thought that both of us being believers, doing extra premarital counselling, plus having successfully married parents, made us experts. Oh, and don’t you know, we knew each other incredibly well and had discussed everything under the sun.  (Cue eyeroll…remember, I was twenty-two).

Or did we?

Our new church family became the reason we have the marriage we do today. They challenged us in our own relationships with Christ in new and profound ways. We realized we both had a lot of spiritual growth to do. I realized that as amazing as my new husband seemed (and is), he is a human and will let me down somehow. He doesn’t mean to, but it happens. And I let him down, even though he has never told me as much, but I’m sure I have at some point.  We learned a lot of things about each other, but most importantly we learned how to live for Christ, to die to ourselves, and to grow in our faith more deeply than we had before.

It came down to this: the closer each of us grew in Christ independently, the better and deeper our relationship grew together.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

As it turns out, that’s also a progressive transformation.

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The Secret to a Great Marriage

Over the years, we’ve participated in some awesome and challenging marriage studies with small groups, such as Eggerich’s Love and Respect, John Piper’s Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and Saving your Marriage Before It Starts by Les and Leslie Parrott. Each one provided great tools and things to consider or work on in a new way, but it comes down to your own relationship with God. You will be a better spouse when you are working on your relationship with the Lord. It’s not magic. It all takes time and intentional investment, but that’s the secret.

Ten years and four kids later, I can now say that I’ve never been more in love with my husband. I understand him in a deeper way. He challenges me to be in the Word, and works tirelessly to “fill my love tank” daily (see The Five Love Languages).  He leads our family devotions each night and parents better than I do, and none of it has anything to do with me.  Yes, we both are very different people than we were ten years ago. Little by little, we’re becoming new people in Christ. If we were the same people we were ten years ago, I don’t know if our marriage would have lasted. (I hate to think that, but the selfishness in both of us was unsustainable.)

There are still occasional tough days, and we each still have a lot of work to do. But there are a lot of wonderful days. I can’t wait to see where we are in another ten years.

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Learning from Grace: Lessons in Servanthood

Learning from Grace: Lessons in Servanthood

Tracy Watts

Tracy Watts

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

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Enduring Advice

My great-grandmother was apparently quite a personality–warm, vivacious, talkative, and outgoing. Her name was Grace. And while I didn’t know her, her presence and influence lingers, even to my generation. I was listening to my great-aunt the other day say that Grace gave her some advice a long time ago that’s still true today: to do one good thing for someone else every day.

And what a beautiful goal that is! I fear that too often my troubles seem so overwhelming and distressing because that is where I am setting my eyes upon. When I step back and serve someone else, it often leaves me more grateful, more appreciative, and more aware of how abundantly blessed I am.

It might seem exhausting. Do something for someone else? I already can’t keep up with what I am responsible for! Surely, God can’t expect that of me.

And yet, doesn’t he?

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Galatians 6:10

I want my son to have the heart of a servant when he grows up. I want him to have a heart that sighs with compassion for those in need. And in order for that to happen, he needs to see a life of servanthood in me first.

An Act of Service, Whether Large or Small

So when I am tired, I still can make time to help a friend. When I feel grumpy, I still need to find a smile. When I  just want to lie on the couch, I can spare just a few moments.

Because sometimes we equate service with building houses in the Amazon jungle.  We think service must be organized and with people and fundraisers and all-out efforts. And while that can be service, it’s not all that service can be.

Service can also be a text to ask how your sick friend is. Service can be a card sent to a shut-in, with a picture your child drew for her. Service can be making a double batch of dinner and taking the other half to a widow or a young mom. Service can be asking a lonely person over for a cup of morning coffee. Service can be listening to that elderly lady repeat her stories from her youth because her mind is slipping and that is the only thing she can hold on to now. Service can be dropping off a friend’s favorite drink at the office where she works. Service can be watching another mom’s kids because you see she needs that break.

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You see, service doesn’t have to be flashy or take up lots of time. Often, quiet, thoughtful ways produce the most meaningful service. In love that seeps throughout your life until suddenly one day, you realize that it’s not something you’re working on but now a habit, ingrained in your daily routine.

I’m not there yet…but I’d like to be. Until then, I look at the “Grace”s in my life and learn from their example of what servanthood really is.

Grief: Mercy in the Abyss

Grief: Mercy in the Abyss

Melissa W

Melissa W

Melissa is an Okie with a Texas heart. She is a wife and a mother of three - two boys and a girl (the girl being squished right in the middle). After having taught in the classroom for 8 years, she now happily finds herself as a stay-at-home homeschool mom living life on her little 1 1/2 acre homestead raising chickens, two goats and a small garden. 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

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“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often–will it be for always?–how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.”

 

C.S. Lewis

The Barren Land of Grief

The presence of grief is felt thick and its roots are deep in the hidden places of our soul. It is a spiraling entity that immobilizes us and causes us to ache for what once was…or for that which never had been. Grief spirals us into a land barren and unknown.

Where it is lodged secretly, no one knows of its depths. Not even the most intimate of relationships are aware of its overwhelming presence. We find comfort in the pain. We draw strength from the agony, but our light flickers dim as the darkness overtakes every nook and cranny of our grieving being. The comfort and strength gained wanes and becomes our undoing. The grief paralyzes.

“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.”

Daniel 2:22

We hold tight to our comfortable uncomfortable, as grief has become part of our essence. But He who is light brings out the darkness. Nothing is hidden from His embodiment of knowledge. He sees our grief buried–our secret made known. He sees the darkness that has crept in, the grief that has taken hold. He knows what is in the darkness…and He offers us light.

For the grief-burdened soul, there is hope in the Gospel message.

When brokenness entered that once-perfect garden, it also birthed grief into a once joyful and peaceful place. We often speak of our rescue from sin, of a Savior who died bearing the weight of our iniquities. But do we not also share that the day sin and shame were hurled onto the beaten body of Perfection hanging on a cross, so also was the enormous weight of all that is broken dumped heavily and fully onto the Sacrificial Lamb. Grief, in its complete form, crushed He who was Hope and Joy.

For what?

For the sake of mercy…for the sake of hope and joy complete.

Finding Comfort in Jesus

In knowing that Christ carried our grief fully on the cross, we can now find comfort as He walks through waters dark with us. Knowing that He defeated grief through His death and resurrection, we can now find hope in a rescue from its prison. When our vulnerable bodies can fall onto bruised knee and stretch out shaky hands in surrender, He will meet us in our state of fragility and hold us close. He is the balm that heals our broken heart. His love saturates deep as it fills complete.

“When I survey the occurrences of my life, and call into account the finger of God, I can perceive nothing but an abyss and mass of mercies.”

Sir Thomas Browne

Is that, then, the hope in grief? Are the feelings of emptiness and the bone-deep aches drawing us into His place of mercy? It is then that we find all we lost is recovered that much more in His redemption. Do we dare hope to feel again, laugh again…do we dare hope to live again? Is grace so strong that it restores the soul tattered and torn by grief’s long reign? In the mass of mercies given, there is such an amazing grace.

“When I survey the occurrences of my life, and call into account the finger of God, I can perceive nothing but an abyss and mass of mercies.” - Sir Thomas Brown (3)

A New Perspective

The grace received brings on new perspective. Our grief buried can be His peace resurrected. Letting go is scary and hard. When the pain does not drench into our pores, we feel as if we might have betrayed. But to live is not to forget. Our life for His glory, our sadness for His joy, our emptiness for His fullness–this is when and how He walks in the grief with us. He beckons us close and He breathes life into our soul. We can ache for that which we grieve, because in the aching we can surrender. We surrender our grief to the One who knew the ultimate grief on the cross. So then, we do not abandon grief itself. Instead, we allow it to be made full through His mass of mercies–allow it to draw us deeper into the heart of God.

“The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things that I know about God.”

 

Elisabeth Elliot

God Can Move Mountains of Laundry and So Much More!

God Can Move Mountains of Laundry and So Much More!

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.

Every moment it seems we are faced with a new challenge.

It may be as impossible as finding a matching pair of socks or as important as fighting of the lies Satan is trying to whisper in our ears. Sometimes, it’s a challenge to keep the faith when life gets hard. Whatever the challenge, I’ve learned God can move mountains, even mountains of laundry and so much more!

I sit here on my bed tonight feeling elated simply because the mountain of laundry that had overtaken our master bedroom for the past weeks (yes that long) has been moved!  Thank you, Lord, for delivering us from the laundry attack! It’s seems silly in one instance, but it is so symbolic in another.

It’s so silly because…

  • I should be thankful we have clothes, even though some of the children would prefer to run around without them!
  • I should be overjoyed that we have machines that wash them so I don’t have to do it by hand, and
  • I should be saying thanks for the fact that many of these clothes were gifted to us,. This is even a bigger blessing because others took the time to share their blessings with us.

As I type, the silly part slides away.

My heart aches for some I love dearly and I am praying over constantly.

With every piece of clothes I fold, I realize that the real life-changing challenges that face us all have to be attacked one item at a time. We may want them to be removed instantly and truly God can do that, but in any situation, God won’t go against our wishes.

Have you ever noticed that?

God Can Move Mountains, but Won’t Unless…

Even when Jesus was healing people, he ALWAYS asked if they wanted to be healed.

I have a choice in how long this pile of clothes will grow in our room. Every day since it first started growing up from the ground, I have loathed it’s presence. Why can’t it fold itself?  Didn’t I do enough by washing it? Why is putting away clean clothes so ridiculously difficult?

No. The washing is a single step in the right direction, but more steps need to be taken.

Jesus could and will heal but we have to be willingly and ready for him to. In the Bible, we never see him healing anyone who wanted to stay the way they were or do it their way instead of his. Their faith and willingness to be changed allowed the healing to happen.

The following verse always takes me aback:

And [Jesus] did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
– Matthew 13:58

It hurts my heart to think that maybe I’m like that too. Maybe there have been times when I just think this is how it is going to be and don’t even give Jesus a chance to move my spirit, let alone a mountain!

Does my faith in Jesus get trumped by the mountain before my eyes?  

Oh, Lord, may it not be!  You created those mountains and can move them too!  When those moments of unbelief arise, help me in my unbelief!  Let me trust you enough so that you are able to perform the miracles you want to perform!

We each have a choice.

Whether it’s attacking the laundry pile, taking steps to overcome addiction, walking the road of extreme illness and cancer, fighting for your marriage, or whatever else, Jesus is able to move our mountains. He may not always move the mountains in the way we expect them to be moved, but trusting that with his power and might we will be freed from the big and even the small things is a step in the right direction.

It all starts with having faith as small as a mustard seed and letting our Lord and Savior know that we are ready for that change.

Whatever your struggle, God can move the mountain.

Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed by the necessities of being a  parent today, or maybe you are struggling with something much bigger. Whatever your struggle is, please know that you can take it to Jesus. He wants to carry that load for you and encourage you through it.

He may very well even send someone your way to help you fold laundry, which is how my pile is finally gone.

Prayer over our hearts.

Thank you, Lord, for caring about the big and small things in our lives. Thank you for being a God who can do what seems impossible. Let us lean into your strength and not our own. When the issue at hand seems like an immovable mountain, remind our hearts that you are greater than anything we may be facing. We trust you, Lord, in whatever ways you want to work or how you choose to move mountains in our lives. In the One who spoke the mountains and ourselves into existence – Amen!

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