Pruning Roses

Pruning Roses

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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Today, I pruned our rose bushes. This is not my favorite job, even at the best of times. It certainly is not my favorite while being eight months pregnant. Pruning is hard work–prickly, back ache-y, and tough.

Pruning is Necessary

And yet, any gardener worth his salt will tell you that you need to prune your rose bushes. Something happens, even though it seems backwards. That cutting and snipping–with those awful, sharp scissors–it seems merciful that plants don’t have feeling! It would be horrible to feel each clip and snip, to watch your former glory fall off, dead and useless to the cold, wintry ground.

But it does something wonderful for the rose bush. You see, not only does the rosebush grow back, it grows back fuller, richer, more beautifully. The rose bush needed to have its branches pruned, no matter how painful (for the bush or for the cutter) in order for the rose to be at its best and most beautiful.

A Parallel in Our Own Lives

Isn’t that how we are with God? John 15:2 says:

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

God knows exactly what we are capable of. And although pruning is certainly a better alternative to being thrown away, we know it to be painful in our own lives. When God’s deft, loving, and wise fingers prune me, it hurts. It hurts when sin must be ripped out of the dark corners of my life. It hurts when old, selfish habits must be relearned and bettered. When I must change my heart and my actions, it hurts. Because change is hard and often painful.

Pruning Sin from My Life Makes Me More Like Jesus

But I can also take hope. Just as I pruned my rosebushes, not with malice but with an eye to the future, with an understanding that it was for the bush’s best interests, certainly the Master Gardener, the Creator, the Almighty, will prune me with such thoughts. It may sting a little in the meantime, but in the end, I can be even more beautiful than a rose. I can be a reflection of Christ himself.

 

The Great Unknown: The Land of Obedience

The Great Unknown: The Land of Obedience

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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“Then the LORD said to him,

‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said,

‘I will give it to your descendants.’

I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.’”

– Deuteronomy 34:4

 

I have read this passage about God speaking to Moses multiple times. Every time, all I have ever seen was the love of God as He let Moses actually see the Promised Land even though he wouldn’t be able to enter into it (Numbers 20:12). Blame it on my optimism or my view of God, but I have never looked beyond that sweet act of mercy. It was almost as if God had told Moses:

“I made a promise years ago and you have always trusted in that promise.

You may not have understood where I was leading you, but you always followed.

I led you into a land of unknown for forty years and you never stopped seeking Me.

 It is because of this that I will show you what I said was true.

I want you to know, my son, that I always have been and always will be faithful to my people.”

How could you not be overwhelmed with the grace and love of God in that moment? He is so good to us even though we don’t deserve it. Because of this great truth, I looked at the passage differently last week when I read it. I could not help but look beyond God’s blessing and look at God Himself, as Moses did. Even though he knew he would not inherit the blessing of the Promised Land, he continued to trust and serve the Lord. Just knowing God was enough reason for Moses to obey all those years spent wandering in the wilderness. It didn’t matter where he was going or what God would give him in the end. If God said “Go,” Moses started walking.

Of course, God, in all his perfect timing, placed this truth on my heart in a season where there are many unknowns and uncertainties of what lies ahead. In a season like this, doubt and fear can easily infiltrate my heart if I do not hold on to God’s promises. Friend, if you find yourself in the same season of life, my hope and prayer is that these words the Lord placed on my heart would also encourage you…

“I made a promise years ago and I need you to trust in that promise.

You may not understand where I am leading you, but I need you to follow.

While I lead you into a land of the great unknown, never stop seeking Me.

I will show you what I said was true.

I want you to know, my daughter, that I always have been and always will be faithful to my people.”

So what do you say, beloved?

The Great Unknown_ Call to Action

Trusting God: Wanting Him More Than Anything

Trusting God: Wanting Him More Than Anything

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

With my little baby bundled up in the back seat, we started the drive to the allergy clinic downtown. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Our little one hadn’t been doing so well, and we’d been working with a GI doctor and her pediatrician to figure out what it was her body didn’t like. I was scared and uncomfortable with the process. Uncomfortable with what we might find out. Uncomfortable with what we wouldn’t find out. And frustrated. So, so frustrated that my baby girl was having to go through this.

I was trying to pray, but I wasn’t sure what to pray for. I’d been praying so much for our sweet girl and her troubles. What could I possibly say right now, as we were nearing this critical appointment? About as soon as I had these thoughts I heard this song playing on the radio:

“And I know any second You could take my pain away, but even if you don’t, I pray

Help me want the healer more than the healing.

Help me want the Savior more than the saving.

Help me want the giver more than the giving.

Oh, help me want you Jesus more than anything.”

I burst into tears as I felt God’s arms around me in that moment.

The song went on to talk about the weakness we face on our own and the feeling of overwhelm we can feel from our burdens. It helped me realize that God has already done everything that we need, no matter the circumstance we face.

He sent Jesus. 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16 

Isn’t that all that really matters? Of course, in our humanness we forget. We become consumed by our circumstances and it’s not enough. This is nothing new for our generation.

God’s Presence is Enough

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the first few books of the Bible lately. Oh, the Israelites–how easy it is for us to judge them! This group of Hebrew slaves has been known through the ages for their complaints. God delivered them, but again and again their struggles consumed them and they started to question God. Their struggles were very real, by the way. Can you even imagine being in their place? Wandering about for years, facing the harsh realities of the desert, and going through foreign lands? Their complaints and questioning frustrated God. God wanted them to understand that his presence with them was enough. He would sustain their needs. He wanted them to trust him.

Why is this so hard? Why do we act like God is never enough? 

Trusting God is Enough

Thankfully, our God is a God of grace and mercy. He knows our weakness. In our faith, we can cast our burden on him (Psalm 55). He hears us and cares for us. We must remember, though, that our true battle is already won. Our hope is not in answered prayers, but in God. So through our struggles, may we want to be drawn closer and closer to the Lord. May we remember the love he has bestowed on us and find peace.

That day, I met my fears head on as I faced the situation I’d been dreading: peanut allergy, among other things. Our family entered a new reality that day, one I still don’t like. I pray boldly, asking God to take this burden away from us, to protect and heal our daughter. While I pray, though, I understand that even more than this, I want God to stay close with us. I want to remember what He’s already done for me. I want to praise Him still, knowing that come what may, He is God, the blood of Christ saved me, and victory is mine. 

Remember God is With You

Whatever struggles you are facing, I encourage you to take hold of the big picture. Draw near to him and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8) I will end this post with Natalie Grant’s song “More Than Anything.” I hope this beautiful song comforts you and reminds you of God’s presence and redeeming love.

 

 

Staying Still: Learning the Spiritual Discipline of Meditation

Staying Still: Learning the Spiritual Discipline of Meditation

Lori S

Lori S

I'm Lori! My husband and I have been married since 2008. We adopted our son in July and live in Memphis, TN. One of the things I love about Creating a Great Day is that it is focused on inspiring women to the woman that God wants them to be. Every woman is different, and we all have talents to honor God and walk alongside each other in this spiritual journey called life. Have a blessed day!
Lori S

I never thought I’d ever be typing a blog about meditation. For the majority of my life, I’ve been on “high definition,” unable to quiet my mind. Silence was uncomfortable. Being still gave me shame and made me feel like I was wasting time. I naturally would run through my to-do list whenever I tried to calm my body. So, I stumbled through life always feeling the need to be busy and productive.

Then my son came. Noise, busyness, and constantly being on the go put me on edge. I began to enjoy quiet and solitude. Being by myself didn’t bother me. Not in a “withdrawn” sort of way, but more of a “I need to recharge” sort of way. I craved time for myself, when I wasn’t attempting to simultaneously accomplish five things on my to-do list!

Our family is in the process of a second adoption, so I’ve been more reflective lately (how do we need to prepare, how can our family be better, what should we prepare for, etc). I’ve been feeling a “pull” of sorts, telling me to engage in silence and listen to the whispers of God. Also, our church is going through a commitment to Christ experience. My preacher sent me some information about the rule of life (also known as the covenant of life) where people can recommit to spiritual disciplines or general attitudes/behaviors that help one engage with God and His people.

I didn’t know what to do. In 2017, I studied spiritual disciplines and knew I wanted to dig deeper. The “pull” that I referenced told me that. I needed to engage in a discipline that would give me multiple opportunities to listen to God. While I knew that I enjoyed quiet and had gotten better about quieting my mind, I had always said I’d never engage in meditation. That was for those really important spiritual people. One of my faith mentors, Eric Wilson, spoke about meditation in some of our church training sessions, and I laughed at the thought of ever engaging in that discipline.

Never say never, right?! Meditation is way out of my comfort zone, but it’s REALLY hard to grow from a place of comfort. Over the past year, I’ve read more about meditation and silence. In Eric’s book Faith: The First Seven Lessons, he states,

“Silence requires us to see ourselves as we are. Doing without, whatever it might be, is uncomfortable, whether sitting in silence or denying our creature comforts.”

Scary, right? No one wants to REALLY see themselves as they are. That would mean we would have to realize how imperfect we are and how we need to change!

Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Disciplines, references four types of meditation: meditation on scripture, “centering down” in silence, meditation on creation, and meditation on current events. I never knew  meditation could serve so many functions. Shauna Niequist’s book Present Over Perfect talks about her journey in embracing silence, solitude, and the lectio divina (a slow, contemplative praying of the scriptures). In her book, she talks about how her commitment to a busy life stripped her of the beauty in silence, simplicity, and reflection with God. As her spiritual journey shifted, she felt more present with God and her family.

In my covenant of life, I committed to practicing meditation for a minimum of one hour a month. So far, I love it! I’ve been incorporating scripture, breath prayers, and yoga into my meditation time. My sister has been helpful in getting me started with yoga, and I have been searching out additional resources to enhance my meditation experience. I’ve already seen some spiritual growth in my sessions, and now I look forward to them!

Trying to figure out how you can get started?

  • First, spend time with God to discern if meditation is what you need in this moment during your current life stage. I wasn’t ready for a long time!
  • There is no “wrong way” to do it (in my opinion) as long as you are spending time focusing on God. Some people rest in his presence in quiet, while others listen to scripture or music and meditate on the words/message.
  • Reach out to your faith community! Share your goals and ask for some accountability.
  • If you want to practice yoga, either attend a class or read up on yoga. There’s lots of information out there, and the seasoned yogis could guide you into what is best for your yoga experience.
  • Read literature about meditation and other “inward” disciplines. I didn’t realize there were so many disciplines to consider!

Blessings on your journey as you explore how to engage God better this year!

The Secret to a Successful Quiet Bag

The Secret to a Successful Quiet Bag

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

Latest posts by Tracy Watts (see all)

You’re in the middle of worship. The entire church has their heads bowed in fervent, quiet prayer when suddenly your kid erupts like a verbal volcano and discovers that your previously vetted out and carefully chosen toy can be:


  • whacked noisily against the pew in front of you,
  • launched like a Cuban missile onto the other side of the auditorium,or
  • just in general be likened to an explosion of sound and excitement.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt that mixture of panic, frustration, and embarrassment. These things never seem to happen in the middle of a great, noisy, swelling song, only during Communion or a prayer! So what’s the secret to making your quiet bag a success? I’m here with the answers. Maybe…

Grace

Pack in grace for yourself. Grace for your kid. Grace knowing that no matter how hard you try or how well you prepare, you can’t always be perfect or utterly quiet or completely still. And that’s OK.

I’m not saying to let your kid run loose on Sunday morning while throwing him goldfish in the middle of the sermon. But I am saying that it’s OK if neither you or your kid are perfect. Give yourself the grace that you would extend to other moms. And find peace in the fact that God sees your efforts and will reward them.

Patience

I know. This is like a dirty word with Christians. The problem with praying for patience is that you get it, right?

But you’ll need it. You need lots and lots and lots of patience to quiet your kids, to miss yet another chunk of the worship service, to smile instead of strangle.

Patience is knowing that you’re doing this for the end game. Nobody in their right mind says, “Boy, that mother of two toddlers and a baby is coming to church and just filling her spiritual cup to overflowing.”

patience

What she’s doing is showing her kids that even when it’s hard for her, even when it’s not ideal for her, even when she may only get five minutes out of the worship service–it is still the most important thing to do. There is nothing more important than going to worship the Creator of the Universe. To give Him the praise and adoration He deserves. And to teach our kids to do the very same.

A Sense of Humor

This is, perhaps, the key to surviving not just a worship service, but motherhood in general! Laughing at the crazy, the ludicrous, and the full moon coming out in your kid (and perhaps you!) is the best way to relieve your stress.

It’s OK to find it funny when your son has a poopsplosion in the middle of opening prayer. And It’s OK to giggle when he happily shares his now-slimy cheerios with the little widow you chose to sit next to this morning. Finding joy in these moments is perfectly OK!

Without joy, you’ll turn into a little ball of stress–and that’s no fun for anyone.

So this Sunday, good luck! And good mothering!

proverbs-22_6

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

Be a Bible Class Teacher Praying the Psalms God is in Control Submissive Wife

I’m Glad I’m a Bible Class Teacher

I’m Glad I’m a Bible Class Teacher

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

Latest posts by Tracy Watts (see all)

It starts with:

What? You teach kids in Bible class? Bless your sweet heart! You really drew the short straw.

These people are well meaning, good-intentioned people. They are people who love me.

But they don’t get me–or why I teach.

Bless my heart? I drew the short straw?

When I get to watch little eyes light up as I pull cotton balls and blue felt out of a box and pass it around? You see, God made the sky and the clouds.

When I get to hear the audible gasp as the Tower of Babel (built on a smaller scale with blocks and not bricks) falls with a crash? You see, God’s power is bigger than men’s.

When I see the wonder and awe on a little face as I turn a bowl of water red with a few food coloring drops? You see, God can do anything, including turning the Nile into blood.

Bless my heart? I drew the short straw?

The Blessings of Teaching

When I hear the cry of “Mrs. Tracy! Mrs. Tracy!” when I step inside the church building and feel little hands flung around my waist in excitement? You see, there’s no exuberance or excitement quite like that of a little child.

When I am tugged by the energetic little hand of a student to come meet her people? You see, I am someone she wants to introduce to her mom or her grandpa.

When I feel a quiet hand slip into mine and I’m met with the quiet, content smile of a gentle soul, untouched by worldliness? You see, there’s a reason God told us to become like little children.

Bless my heart? I drew the short straw?

I get the most important, most weighty privilege in the universe–that of teaching minds and molding hearts to know and be like Jesus. Children still want to learn; they are not yet jaded by the world and its ways. They believe, they listen, they laugh–freely and beautifully.

Bless my heart? I drew the short straw?

I’m sorry, friend. I wasn’t unlucky. I don’t deserve that sympathy. Because I get to teach children’s Bible class. And I like it.

[B]ut Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Matthew 19:14

 

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