Remembering the Blessings

Remembering the Blessings

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

Latest posts by Kristin J (see all)

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!

Building Up Your LeadersThe Best Life Praying for our Children We all struggle

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

Am I the Critic or the Worker?

Am I the Critic or the Worker?

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

Latest posts by Kristin J (see all)

“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

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

Latest posts by Kristin J (see all)

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.

The Hope in the Easter Story

The Hope in the Easter Story

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

Latest posts by Kristin J (see all)

The Easter Story is one of the grandest stories ever told.

Jesus hung on a cross to die an agonizing death which he did not deserve. Three days after his burial the ground shook and his grave was left empty. Jesus Christ had risen from the dead! He came to his disciples over the course of forty days to speak about the kingdom of God, and he lavished them with grace and promises to give them hope for the future. I love the glimpse Paul gives us in John 21:25:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

It’s like a really good series that you never want to end. Maybe if the internet had been around in those days Paul would have found some people to start writing about those “many other things” Jesus did during that time. Surely with the internet, we’d have room!!

Eventually the disciples ran out of time with Jesus on earth, and they watched their friend, teacher, and Lord rise into the clouds.

They clung to hope that Christ would return (as he promised he would) and they devoted the rest of their lives to building His church.

john-21-25

It is a story of hope.

Hope is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a very hard thing. The people who were closest to Jesus had just experienced a whirlwind of emotions. They mourned his death, rejoiced in his rising, and then had to bid him farewell again. It could not have been easy to leave company yet again with this man they loved so much. But they had hope. Hope in his return. This hope filled them with joy. Joy that glorified God and gave birth to generations upon generations of believers.

Each year I pick a word to focus on. Last year, I had a difficult time choosing a word because I kept hearing God whisper “hope” but I didn’t want that word! I didn’t want to find myself in a situation needing hope. (Which is silly because we all need hope!) Reluctantly, I gave in and declared “hope” to be my word for 2016. Lo and behold, a couple of days later I found myself in a situation requiring hope. God is ever so merciful! He has showed me so much about hope in just a short few weeks.

So what does that mean and how does that relate to the resurrection story?

When troubling times come our way we can place our hope in many things. Mostly, I think it’s natural to put our hopes in our desired outcomes. We pray for these things in the hopes that God will give them to us. There is nothing wrong with those prayers either! Philippians 4:6 declares,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

But is your hope in your desired outcome or in God?

Two lines from two favorite worship songs come to mind:

My hope is in you Lord, all the day long.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

What does it really mean to have our hope solely in Jesus?

When the disciples faced hardships while spreading the gospel, I’m sure they desired relief but their hope remained in Christ and his second coming. They knew there was a bigger picture than what they were going through.

As I face my current struggle, I’ve been able to stay pretty peaceful (not that I’m always glad about my circumstance, because I’m not) but I know that there is a bigger picture than what me and my family are going through.

This picture is the life of Christ! The Easter story!!

God won when sin wanted to overcome and God invited ME to claim his victory. My hope in that promise is what gets me through my trials. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small problem or something completely life changing, I know that I take part in God’s victory and that ultimately I will see Christ one day.

No matter what struggles I come upon in this life, I’ve already overcome the bigger and more important picture!! Are you with me? Do you understand this truth tucked inside the writings of the gospel?

He said to them, “Go unto all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Mark 16:15

Let me tell you, I believe!!! I believe that Jesus is who he says he is. With that confession I was baptized, and I claim my salvation that he offered to me. I claim God’s victory over sin and death.

The Easter story is about hope.

Hope in his promise that we can overcome through Him. Hope that when we claim God’s victory over sin as our own, no trial on this earth can defeat us.

Wherever you are in your life this Easter, may you take hope in this glorious promise.

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

Latest posts by Kristin J (see all)

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.

 

 

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