Faith and Prayers

Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8: 24-28

As part of a prayer team, I get asked to pray for some terribly heartbreaking things. There just don’t seem to be words adequate to express the hurt, the anger, the utter chaos that these situations create. The good news is that God knows what is happening. He knows every emotion they cause, even when we are too confused to know how we feel.

Sometimes when we pray, it is for an unnamed request or one where we don’t know details. But there are plenty of times I still don’t know what needs to be covered. I am so grateful for Romans 8. I can pray and know that the Holy Spirit has me covered. When I hear of something tragic happening, such as evil in the world, I don’t have to have all the right words. I think that is what prevents people from praying. They are afraid or embarrassed that they don’t know what to say. Really, all we have to do is bring it up to our Father and He will understand.

Romans 8:24-28 is linking the fact that we don’t see what we are hoping for with our prayers. Until recently, I didn’t really understand the similarity. Now I see that both faith and prayers are invisible. We cannot see, feel, or sometimes even express them. I don’t know about you, but I know sometimes I don’t even know what I hope for. It can seem concrete one minute then fly out the window the next. I change my mind, but God never changes His nature. He always knows what we need.

The best part of this passage to me is Romans 8:28. We can feel safe knowing that God is working everything out for our good and His glory. All the things we pray about now will one day be resolved. We don’t know how or when, but we don’t have to know. As long as we leave it with God, He will weave it into something beautiful. We just have to have faith and pray in our limited way, and God will do the rest.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Mom Hug

Within minutes of each other on Facebook, I saw two posts I consider parent shaming. It made me feel a little guilty and sad. I decided I would like to give the moms in my life a hug and some reassurance.

You are free to use cloth or disposable diapers.

Go ahead and let your baby cry it out or keep them in your bed with you.

Breast feed your baby or give them formula.

Work or stay home. Do what is best for your family.

Spank your child or punish them another way.

Make sure your child only eats organic or don’t.

Have one child or lots of them.

Be a helicopter parent if it brings you joy.

Go on a date night or never let anyone else put your kids to bed.

Volunteer at their school in whatever way you want.

I am not going to judge your style if it is different than mine. I know parenting is hard and I want to support you however I can. I won’t put you down or alienate you just to make my way seem more valid. I don’t want to pile on needless guilt, because you have your hands full. Your full hands are dealing with things that I am not. I refuse to make you feel like there is something wrong with you over simple things.

You love your babies more than life itself. I know that, and more importantly, they know that.

I won’t tell you to enjoy every moment because one day you will miss these days. You don’t need to hear someone say that and add more guilt.

You are going to feel like you are failing your kids at some time or in some way. We all do. I won’t be the outside influence reinforcing that idea. I will instead remind you that you are doing your best with what you have been given.

I choose to lift you up and support you rather than tear you down. I know you tear yourself down enough.

God gave your kids to you for a reason. You are the most equipped to know what they need and what is best for them. Please don’t let someone else take that knowledge from you. Keep going and remember how loved you are. You don’t have to change for some other mother. Be who YOU were created to be. You are awesome!

Linking with Faith Along the Way

When I Am Overwhelmed

Over the weekend, I had one of those nights. I felt like I was failing at everything. I wanted to be a better wife and mother, write easier, sell more, and raise more money, but it felt like I hit a wall in every area. I was trying so hard and doing all I could think to do. I was spinning my wheels, going nowhere, drowning.

I collapsed into bed with an overwhelmed spirit, feeling like I can’t find my place and oh so lonely. Tears poured out and down the sides of my face and into my hair-tears that had been at the surface, building up until they spilled out.

“I can’t do this anymore!” my heart cried out to God. In the next ten minutes, my worries tumbled out and kept time with the tears. I didn’t want to stop them, because I knew I needed to take my heartache to the One who put that heart in me. No one else understands where I have been and where I am going like Jesus. No one else gets the anguish I feel.

I came to one realization at this time. I have done everything in my power, praying all the while. I am just at the point where I need to step back and let God work. Maybe in some areas, the timing is off. I prayed for peace and rest. I know nothing gets done without God and am usually OK with that. I needed the reminder to sit back and wait instead of scurry around trying to do it all and fix it all.

It was a moment I had to come to the end of my strength and then reach out for more. God had to let me get to that place so I could see what I was doing wrong. I needed to see that maybe He wants me to try a different tact or wait a little. Either way, I needed to give everything back to God.

I didn’t wake up the next morning with everything fixed and humming along. The situations may not have changed, but I have. God is giving me peace when I ask for it, but just enough for each day. I can’t let it get to that point again. I don’t know what is going to come of the circumstances of my life, but that knowing was an illusion anyways. I must do my part and let God do His.

When I am overwhelmed, it is my heart longing for God. It is my signal to stop, step back and pray. There is no other way to get back on track.

Thank You, Jesus, for wanting me by Your side. Thank You for never giving up on me. I won’t give up on Your plans.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Wrecked

I wander the mall with its glamour and allure. “Buy me!” yell the pretty springy floaty shirts. “You need me!” call the sporty sunglasses. I paw through the racks, thinking how much better I will look/feel/be if I had this one item. “It’s just one thing,” I try to justify to myself. It wouldn’t be a big deal.**

Yes, it’s just one thing. Seriously, how do I sometimes convince myself that this one item will change my life? It won’t make it better and it won’t solve any problems. If anything, it would create more problems. It could lead me into debt, starting a spiral of need that has no end. That one thing wouldn’t satisfy, so I would need more and more. When would it end?

No, I may not be a shopping spree kind of girl, but I have bought things I placed high expectations on. How can an inanimate object live up to my dreams?

One of Jen Hatmaker’s videos for her 7 study has stuck with me. It is the spending one and she says where your checkbook goes, your heart will follow. When we start using our money for good, our mindset changes. When we give to a child through Compassion, our heart dwells more on them. When we make a micro loan to a family so they can support themselves, our hearts soften toward the hurting. And when we give to a homeless shelter, our hearts remember the forgotten. These are all examples of treasures in heaven, ones that will never be lost of broken.

I may not always make the right spending decisions, but my heart is definitely more opened to the needy. After hearing what Jen said, I thought back to when our family started giving more. It truly is where our hearts are heading now. God is doing that, a dollar at a time. He is making us care more about families in need and kids getting an education. That change may start small, but it doesn’t stay that way.

When I am no longer on this earth, I want the legacy I leave behind to be what I did for others, not the clothes I wore.

**Disclaimer: No items were purchased on this excursion.

Linking with Faith Along the Way

Summer Challenge

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Our church has elementary school aged children learn verses each month. The kids get points for saying them to us leaders, bringing their Bibles, finding books of the Bible, and more. While my youngest got a prize every time she had enough points (she earned every little rubber duck offered, bless her heart), my oldest let the points build up. Another leader told me she offered her son a penny for every point he earned. We decided maybe it was bribery, but it is worth it if it makes our kids want to learn about Jesus. My Lauren did finally use her points on glow in the dark headphones. (Yay for the preteen years!)

This got me thinking about all the verses I learned as a kid in church and Christian schools. I still know many because my brain was like a sponge at that point. I don’t want to waste these years with my girls, so I gave them a challenge. We are going to learn a verse a week for 10 weeks. If, at the end, they can tell me all 10, they will get $10. We started last night, so we can be done before we go to the beach.

Here are the verses we picked:

Deuteronomy 3:22 Do not be afraid; The Lord your God Himself will fight for you.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Hebrews 11:1, 6 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on you own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.

Philippians 4:13 I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up.

Galatians 5:22 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

1 Peter 3:8-9 Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate, and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

The summer will be much richer, and lessons will abound I am sure. Do you have any goals with your kids this summer?

Side note: we got the verse cards at Comfort Food for the Soul. They are awesome!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Daddy’s Girl

My Dad was born on Mother’s Day. Growing up, I would hear Grandma, who lived with us, say that he was her best Mother’s Day present. Even now, that makes me smile.

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I am a Daddy’s girl. My Dad and I have always had a special bond and I have many memories of things he and I did together. I remember the first 5K I ran with him and how happy I was that he wanted to spend time with me. He took me to a baseball game once, just me and him. There is the controversial gift I received that my sister still brings up. We had been gem mining and my parents let me have a sapphire ring made. Well, it was August and I didn’t want to wait for Christmas. I convinced Dad to give it to me then as a “Good Daughter Award.” That didn’t go over well at home, but it was sure a good memory for me.

My Dad has always made me feel special. He encouraged me in all I did and came to every choir concert, piano recital, or play I was in. That seemed normal at the time, but now I know all daddies don’t do that. He was there with a smile on his face that showed me there was no place else he’d rather be.

Dad listened when I needed him to and gave advice when I needed some. He taught me to dream big. We may not achieve everything we want, but the important thing is to try. I learned that by watching him.

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Dad is a loving example of a godly father and husband. He is the reason I made a good choice when I married James. I knew what to look for and to find a man who cherishes me and now our two girls.

I never doubt Dad’s love for me or that he would do anything for me. I grew up secure in the knowledge that I could never do anything that would make him not love me. Because of his love, I am who who I am today.

Now Dad is the first person I call on many occasions. He gives me advice, listens to me, laughs with me, cries with me, and most important, prays for me. I couldn’t have asked for a better dad.

Happy early Birthday Dad! I love you!

Linking with Faith Along the Way

Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids by Jill Richardson Review

When I saw this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids by Jill Richardson is a quick read with a lot of information. She shares her experiences of trips with her husband and three daughters. Her wisdom is hard earned and her passion is obvious.

As you all know, Lauren is doing a project with Food for the Poor where we are supplying a family in Guatemala with animals to sustain them. Once we finish this one, our plan is to raise approximately $50,000 to build a school through Food for the Poor. I have known that once the school is built, our family will go down and meet the kids and see the school. It is so important to me for us to see how other people live, as a family.

This book grabbed me from the beginning. Jill Richardson’s line “We went to church every week and learned the evils of sin, but what about the evils of complacency?” had me nodding in agreement. All the trappings we have in the US are truly numbing kids (and adults) into being careless Christians. We are so self centered and make everything about us. She didn’t go too far when she used the word “narcissistic.”

Yes, we can do good here at home, but as Mrs. Richardson points out, the distractions of our lives pull our focus from where we intend it to be. Going on a short term missions trip also helps our children learn to be sensitive to other cultures and learn that we don’t have the only right way to do things. Kids will definitely learn flexibility on a trip, something they will need the rest of their lives.

While trips can be dangerous, everything we do in life can be dangerous. I don’t think we can live in fear of what may happen. And yes, our children will see things we try to protect them from in their normal life. However, these experiences can lead to great discussions and set our children’s hearts on fire for Jesus. They won’t be the same.

Jill Richardson gives important information on topics like obtaining passports and shots, as well as what to pack. She tells us how to prepare kids intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. There is even a spiritual gift inventory, sample letters, and testimony tips at the end.

I think anyone who has thought about taking their family on a missions trip should read this gem. Jill Richardson can’t make up your mind for you, but she can give you lots of reasons to go for it. Her family is a shining light in this world, and they give me hope for when our family goes on a trip. She can do the same for you.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Choose to Love

Reading in 1 Corinthians the other day, I was struck by Paul’s words.

“When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do every thing to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. (1 Cor 9:20-23)

If only we would all follow in Paul’s footsteps. He didn’t see customs as right or wrong and instead saw people who need love. He made every effort to find common ground with everyone.

What if we didn’t judge people? What if we sat down with a person who had a completely different background and asked about their life? What if we looked someone in the eye who dressed more provocatively than us and showed we respected them? What if we gave food to a homeless person as we smiled and shook their hand?

I love how one version says in verse 21 “I agree with them (Gentiles) as much as I can.” Paul isn’t saying to do anything God would disapprove of. He is saying we should enter people’s world and talk to them on whatever level they are on. Whatever they are doing or have done, people were created by God. He created us to be in a community and to rely on each other.

No one is going to become a Christian when the Christians they know are self righteous arrogant jerks who forget they are sinners. They will come to know Christ when we show them the love they deserve.

So the next time we are tempted to judge or condemn someone, we should figure out what we have in common. We should focus on all the ways we are the same. Maybe then we can tear down walls and misconceptions.

Let’s choose to love.

Linking with Faith Along the Way

Remind Satan He Lost

Two days after my pastor talked about this, I realized I am in the middle of this situation. It was a powerful sermon Sunday, but my little brain didn’t connect it to me until this morning.

Pastor Mike told us about a tough time he was in a few years ago, where he pulled away. He didn’t want to be around people like normal or even do things he loves. None of us knew he was walking through this at the time, but Satan was attacking him.

Satan wants to distract, discourage, and destroy us. He knows our weaknesses and what areas he can do the most damage to our testimonies. He wants to keep us from making a difference.

Well, the last few weeks, I must have scared Satan! He has been at me, doing his best to discourage me. He knows how much I want people to like me and how I want their approval. People have criticized me in different ways and it has devastated me. People I am close to have unknowingly ripped my heart apart. I do my best to hide it around all but my husband and a close friend, but even they don’t know the tears I have cried or the torment I have been through.

Satan wanted to paralyze me and make me question my parenting and every little thing in my life. He wanted me to isolate myself and hide from any further attacks. I am sorry to say he succeeded. I chose to believe lies over what I know to be true. I analyzed everything little thing I have done and am doing, searching for truth to the harsh words.

This ends today, right now. My girls need me, my husband needs me, as do my family, friends and neighbors. I don’t have time to allow any of this to matter. I need to stay alert and stand firm against the devil, according to 1 Peter 5:8-9. The devil is prowling around, looking for someone to devour. I won’t let him get a foothold into my heart.

If this resonates with you right now, it is imperative that you remind yourself of promises God has made.

You are made in God’s image and He loves you with an everlasting love.

God has a plan for your life and wants to do great things through you.

God will supply all you need.

Nothing can separate you from God, and Satan knows it.

God is right there next to you, even when you try to push Him away.

There is nothing you can do that is so bad that God will stop loving you. Nothing.

I pray that we will recognize these times that Satan is after us and will stop him in his tracks. I pray we turn to God for comfort and strength and never try to go it alone. Christians need to stand strong now more than ever, which means Satan is hard at work.

We just need to remind him he has already been defeated.

Linking with Holley Gerth and Faith Along the Way

Ready For the Attack

What if I was targeted for my faith? What if I was persecuted for being a Christian? These thoughts are running through my mind lately with all the evil in the world. The very idea that ISIS is slaughtering Christians turns my stomach.

Evil is taking over more and more and yet it is too easy to be complacent here in the US. We complain about the small things while people are being imprisoned or murdered.

I want to think I am safe. We are in a different country with a government to protect us. However, we know they can come here, if they haven’t already.

I want to think they wouldn’t care about me, a housewife. Well, anyone can find my blog and know I am a Christian. I have privacy settings on Facebook, but there are ways to see what I post. I am also at a large church on Sundays.

I used to be nervous about posting Christian quotes, song lyrics, or Bible verses. I didn’t want my friends to see me as the crazy Christian girl. Now I am glad I got over that. People can see who to turn to when they need prayer or have a question. But really, why was I so afraid? None of these people were going to burn down my house or attack me. The worst they were going to do is unfriend me. (Yes, that hurt my feelings, but I got over it.)

The day will come in America where we have to put up or shut up. Get in or get out. Stand up or run away. We need to stand firm now and put deep roots on our faith. We have to live out our beliefs now and determine to keep it up no matter what happens.

We need to pray for those who are being persecuted now, even as we prepare for our own fight. We need to pray for our reaction when these things are on our soil. And we need to especially pray for future generations. This may not happen today or tomorrow, but we need to be ready for the attack.

I think of Casting Crown’s song Courageous:

“The only way we’ll ever stand

Is on our knees with lifted hands

Make us courageous.”

God will give us courage and make us ready, but we have to ask Him for it. He alone will get us through these times ahead and usher us into eternity.

Will you be ready?

Linking with Faith Along the Way