Good Fruit

She is loving. She is joyful. She is peaceful and patient. She is kind and good. She exudes faithfulness. She has a gentle spirit. She practices self-control.

Who is this superwoman?? I want to meet her. I want to be her! I don’t know if she really exists, but this list of attributes describes a person who is living and walking through life by the power of the Holy Spirit. This woman is bearing good fruit!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

Thinking about my daily interactions with my children, I wonder if I practice these qualities enough. Would my family describe me as loving, peaceful, patient, kind, etc.? These are certainly things that I want God to produce in me. The one thing I do know is that the process is ongoing!

Lately, I have been working on teaching the importance of self-control to my four year old. I realize how much easier it will be for him to understand and practice it himself if he sees it modeled through my behavior. And how confusing it will be for him if he doesn’t! How can I ask my children to develop and display behaviors, unless I am first willing to do the same in myself?

Am I loving and kind during a screaming toddler tantrum? Am I patient when someone wakes up at 3:00am? Am I gentle and self-controlled as I try to teach my sons what it means to show these same qualities? Or am I screaming at them to stop yelling at each other? Am I faithful to the role God has given me as wife and mother to do everything as if I am doing it for the Lord?

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 NIV

So how do we become a fruitful person like this? I love when the Bible supports itself so beautifully from one passage to another. When I think about how to remember to practice these qualities I am reminded of another wonderful verse from the book of Philippians.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV

Train your mind to think about right, pure, and praiseworthy things. When difficult times arise whether dealing with children, husbands, or anyone in our lives, come back to this verse. When your children are driving you just a little crazy (or a lot), think about what is true, they are a gift from God! In fact, every day we live, every breath we breathe is a gift. God is excellent and praiseworthy all of the time!!

We know what kind of good fruit we want to produce (Gal. 5:22-23), and we know what kind of things to focus to help us do that (Phil 4:8). But how do imperfect, sinful people really achieve this kind of lifestyle? The answer is good news, and it is more simple than you might think.

Abide in Him.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 NKJV

Any fruit that is cut from the vine is going to die before long. It is only the one that stays connected to its very source of life that can flourish and produce beautiful fruit. It is the very same with us. If I want to be someone who is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled…then I have to stay connected to my source of life, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Apart from God, there is no way I can be the person, wife, and mother I want so much to be.

The way to abide in Him, is through prayer and study of the Bible, God’s Word. These two things have more power than anything to change our hearts, minds, and our attitudes to joyfully produce good fruit. No self-help book, devotional reading, pod-cast or blog will do that. Anything that doesn’t point you back to the true source of life isn’t worth your time. Pray, read the Word, and abide in Christ who gives life abundantly.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV

“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” Psalm 18:30 NIV

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

Along with your personal prayer and Bible study, you can help to make sure you are connected to the vine by finding other women who are also striving to be fruitful and encouraging one another. As a musician, I also love worshipping God through hymns and good music.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 NIV

I pray that as mothers we will stay connected to the vine, so that life will flow from us, and our children will see Christ in us.

May we abide in Him, and focus our minds on things that are true, pure, and worthy of praise. May we show our families love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Let our homes be full of sweet, good fruit!

Rest and Renewed Strength

When I think about what mothers probably want for this special day more than anything, the word that first comes to my mind is…rest. Motherhood is such a gift. To me, it is one of the most wonderful, rewarding jobs that God ever created. The amount of love I feel on a daily basis for my kids is indescribable. The constant hugs, the snuggles, and “mommy, I love you,” when children are young, are moments I wouldn’t trade for all the world! But at the same time mothering can be hard. It can try our patience. And it takes a lot of energy! When I think of being a mom, restful is not the first word that usually comes to mind to describe most days. Words that I do think of might be…tiring, hectic, fun, busy, stressful, joyful…but restful…not so much! Being a mom is a 24/7 job!

God made mothers and women with such nurturing hearts. I feel like we are always looking for someone to care for and “mother.” When we meet little girls at the park, and they see my two-year-old son they immediately start taking care of him like little mother hens.

In my own life I look back and realize how my role all along was that of a mother, to my students, to my spoiled little dogs, to the horses I took care of (they are just 1,000lb babies!) I was always looking for someone to care for.

Although this post is geared towards moms, it is for all women who care for little ones in some form or another. If you are a mother (or praying and longing to be one), mother-to-be, step-mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, godmother, babysitter, nanny, teacher, mentor, foster parent, social worker, coach, caretaker for children/elderly/disabled, nurse, children’s ministry worker at church, daycare worker, volunteer, the list could go on…then you are a caretaker, and you probably could use a little rest.

For Mother’s Day, I wanted to give you a gift. I wanted to write something meaningful and encouraging. Then I realized there is nothing I could write that is more meaningful or more encouraging than what God has already shared with us in His Word. That is the whole point of this blog, to share encouragement to women through Biblical truth.

So today my gift to you is to share 15 of my favorite verses dealing with rest or renewed strength. No matter how tired we are, how weary, there is a God who cares for us. He sees our every day, even when no one else might see. He sees the extra care, the sleepless nights, the times when we are patient and loving even though our own energy tanks are running on empty. He sees when we put the needs of someone we love and care for above our own. He knows it all and He is there ready to hold us in His arms and let us rest. What a loving God!

I hope these verses are as meaningful to you as they are to me. I hope that you will keep them in your hearts, remember God’s Word and be encouraged on the good days and the not so good days.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11 NIV

I wanted to share this verse first because I love the picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, our good shepherd, gathering us in His arms and close to His heart. It reminds me of how we carry our babies and little ones that same way, with so much love and tenderness, totally protected. And it goes on to say “He gently leads those that have young.” That’s him talking about us. I am thankful for how gently He leads us along the road of motherhood. I pray I might lead my little “lambs” with the same gentle and loving spirit.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1-2 NIV

“Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22 NKJV

“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:1-2 NIV

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 NIV

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” Acts 2:26-28 NIV

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2 NIV

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” Psalms 23:1-3 NKJV

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11 NIV

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8 NIV

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13 NIV

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8 NIV

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” Psalm 116:7 NIV

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV

Isn’t it comforting to know that God never grows tired or weary? His strength is unending and He tells us to come to Him when we are in need of rest. The first verse I shared and this last one are both from Isaiah 40. The entire chapter is an absolutely beautiful picture of God’s comfort, His power and strength as creator and ruler. I suggest you read the whole thing when you have time. It is one of my new favorites!

This Mother’s Day and always, I pray that you will place your hope in the Lord. Run to His loving arms, and there find your rest and renewed strength.

Peace Like A River

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the rock eternal.” Isaiah 26: 3-4

We got in the car to drive to a birthday party for a friend of my four-year-old son. I couldn’t find the paper invitation, but I thought I had taken a picture of it on my phone. I couldn’t find that either.

Still, everything was great! My boys were happy. We were singing along to our Bible story songs channel on my radio app in the minivan. The party was at a local kid’s play gym. We had been there several times before so my brain was on autopilot, just happily driving along.

When we arrived, I noticed there were only about three others cars in the parking lot. This seemed a bit unusual for a party. It was ten minutes after the starting time, so I still felt like we were doing great, not overly eager to get there first, just fashionably late. But I still wondered where everyone else was. We walked in and I didn’t see any party decorations or balloons, and just a few other kids playing. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks, we were clearly at the wrong location! This one is near our house, but our friends live all the way on the other side of town. Why didn’t I think of that?! My boys were already starting to take their shoes off and put them into the cubbies to get ready to play. I was trying not to panic, and checking with the lady at the counter for the address of the correct location. All the while, I was feeling like the worst mommy ever! I thanked the lady and scrambled back to the car with the boys. By now, my little one was crying for his shoes to be put back on his feet.

I put the new address in my GPS. The real party was 40 minutes away. My heart sank. My poor sons were going to miss half of their two hour party because their mommy totally failed! I wondered why my brain can’t just work the way I want it to??

At this point my stomach was in knots, and I really felt like I could cry. But I didn’t. I took a deep breath and put the car into drive. My radio app came back on and a kid’s version of “Peace Like a River” began playing. You know, the old classic song that goes, “I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.” It stopped me in my tracks, and I commented to my precious four-year-old, “I need to pray for Jesus to give me peace, because mommy is feeling really upset right now.” I looked back and saw him sitting in his car seat, birthday present in hand, completely calm. His simple response was “Well mommy, God already gave me peace.” From the mouths of babes!

I was so amazed that here I was a stressed out wreck, and my son was sitting there as calm as could be! I remembered then that we had heard the same song a few days earlier. I had asked him if he knew what peace was. And then I explained to him (in four-year-old terms) that peace is when we feel really calm and happy, not worried or upset. Real peace comes from God, He gives it to us. What a wonderful gift that is! And what a lesson for my heart to see my sweet child sitting there so content, trusting in peace that I would get him to the party and that God is in control. Oh if I would only trust my Father in heaven that calmly!

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I started singing along to the song, and I realized what happened wasn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, it was just what we needed that day. We had 40 more minutes to sing our Bible songs and be together in the car. I had two healthy, safe, wonderful little boys. And we learned a valuable lesson about resting in God’s peace. We ended up getting to the party and they had a little over an hour to play, eat, and sing “Happy Birthday” to their friend. We had a great time and the boys never remembered the rough beginning.

I wouldn’t choose to have the silly failures that I do, I’d rather get it right the first time. But they are part of life, because I am human and so imperfect. I think sometimes God in His amazing providence and loving-kindness uses these situations to remind us that when we are not perfect, He is. And when we are weak, He is strong. And hopefully, our failures keep us a little more humble, and aware of our need for Him. I know I can sometimes develop an attitude that looks a little bit like “I’ve got this mom thing down pretty good,” at least in my own mind. And then like a loving parent, God uses some circumstance to humble me and bring me back to the reality of my weakness and His strength.

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”  Psalm‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I love to see how God uses our children and their innocent trust to remind us to rely on Him and rest in His perfect timing and His perfect peace. I learn so much from my kids every day, about myself, and about God and His goodness. That’s the reason I started this blog, just to share those the sweet lessons He is teaching me through motherhood. So next time you have a “mommy fail,” take a breath, sing a song, and thank God for His peace that flows over us, peace like a river!

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.” ‭‭II Thessalonians‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The Heart of the Gospel

I want to share with you a very personal story, about a man that I loved so dearly. This man was a devoted husband, a loving father, a brave firefighter, my superhero. He was my father. My dad had a special kind of faith that shined the light of God’s love to everyone who was blessed enough to know him. He seemed to have this special connection and fellowship with God like I have rarely seen in anyone. Faith like his was a gift to witness. My dad truly prayed without ceasing, he lived his faith, he walked with God. There is a character from the Bible way in the beginning of Genesis named Enoch. We don’t know much about this good man, but what we do know always makes me think of my dad.

“And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Genesis‬ ‭5:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

That is just like my father. For 50 short years he walked with God. And then he “was not.” God took him. My dad fought cancer for a little over two years before he went home to the Lord. During that time I watched a strong man become weak and frail. He lost so much of what made him whole. Dad was a singer, he loved praising God with music. He didn’t have training, but his voice was like an angel, God given. By the end he couldn’t even sing, but he wrote a poem about praising God anyway in the quiet. In fact, I never heard my dad complain or be angry the whole time he was sick. I heard him pray, cry out for mercy and help. I heard him thank God for every little kindness. And I heard him try in his last days to make sure everyone he could tell heard that Jesus is the way to eternal life, and try to get just one more person to hear about the love of Christ. That was my father. And when he took his last breath we were there, all of my family, right beside him.

It is a powerful experience to watch someone you love that much die. It is sobering to see a body once full of life instantly become an empty vessel. But it is truly amazing to know that at that same instant the spirit is with the Lord. My dad’s greatest desire was to live a life pleasing to God and hear the words “well done my good and faithful servant,” upon leaving this world. I can just picture that scene taking place in heaven. No sooner had he left our arms, he rested in arms of Christ his savior, fully restored, likely already singing praises. God took him.

My father passed away one week after my 14th birthday. Somehow God gave me a grace even at that age where I wasn’t ever angry or confused. I never felt cheated. I was grateful for 14 years with a father that was so wonderful. I knew it was part of God’s plan. I just had peace. How could I question when my dad had so graciously accepted what God had allowed him to go through?

All of that happened nearly 25 years ago. But the story I have to share today, I just learned about a few months ago from my older sister. She was 21 years old at the time.

After going through surgery, chemo, radiation, and kidney dialysis three days a week, my dad’s cancer had gone into a very short period of remission in 1994. We were so happy! On this particular day, my sister went with dad to his appointment at a John Hopkin’s hospital in Baltimore. One of his good friends from the fire department was also with them. They sat down in the tiny room waiting for the latest update. It was on that day the doctors told my father the cancer had returned and spread; there was nothing more they could do to treat him. They recommended he begin hospice services. He wouldn’t have much time left.

No one showed much emotion in the room. No one cried. They just left the hospital and went to go get lunch. My sister sat there as my dad and his friend talked and even joked, in complete disbelief. How does a person accept news like this? How can they just eat and talk like the doctors didn’t just say “you are going to die”?

Later that same evening my dad was sitting out on the deck. My sister approached him and asked how he could be ok? My dad didn’t want cancer. He didn’t want to die and leave his family. But he trusted his God. His answer to my sister was “I’d rather it be me than any of you.” She went away in disbelief. It was only later when she became a parent that she understood that kind of love. Of course we would choose to go through the trials instead of seeing our children suffer. That is just the heart of a loving parent. And then she realized that is also the heart of God the Father. And that is the heart of the Gospel of Christ.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

My dad was a good man, a great man even, who carried the cross of cancer that he was given in this life, but he was still a sinner saved by grace. He knew that. He knew he needed a savior in the Lord Jesus Christ more than anything.

God sent His own Son to earth, Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man. He was completely sinless, holy and righteous, and yet He willingly chose to die so that we could live. He demonstrated to us “I would rather it be me than any of you.” And it could only have been Him. Jesus Christ was the only worthy sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins and restore us to God. It had to be Him. We couldn’t have done it. But He did it for us because He loves us that much. My dad didn’t choose to die, he just accepted it. But Jesus willingly put aside Himself and took up the cross that we couldn’t bear. He did it so we could be with Him forever.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

‭‭II Corinthians‬ ‭5:21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

‭‭John‬ ‭10:17-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Tomorrow is Good Friday. We remember the suffering that Jesus went through to defeat sin and death and restore us to a relationship with God. I hope that you will think deeply about what that means. And if you don’t know Him as your Lord and Savior I pray that you will. I love Isaiah chapter 53 and how it foreshadows the person of Christ. I highly recommend reading the whole chapter and reflecting on it. But here is part of it that I find especially powerful.

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:4-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The punishment could have been for us, it should have been for us. But it was put on Him. It was Jesus. Because that is the heart of the gospel, a Father who loved His children so much, and a God that chose for it to be Him sacrificed instead of us. He loved us enough to die for us. Shouldn’t we love Him enough to live for Him?

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:6-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

His gift of salvation is offered to all who would believe in the Son. Jesus suffered the cross, died, and rose again that first Easter morning so that we could have the hope of being with Him forever in His kingdom. Do you have that hope today?

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:6-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Being with the Lord was my dad’s greatest hope. His other hope was that everyone He loved “be there” too. Jesus Christ offers eternal life to all those that believe in Him. I know I will see my dad again someday. I will be there with him, but most importantly I will be there in the presence of God my Savior. Will you be there? A loving parent says “I would rather it be me than any of you.” The atoning death and resurrection of Christ say to us that it was Him, so it doesn’t have to be any of us. The debt has been paid, the veil has been torn. We are free to come into the presence of the Lord. Will you come? Praise God for the good news that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and that He lives! That is the heart of the Gospel!

Happy Easter!

Your Deepest Heart’s Desire

If I asked you what the greatest, deepest, desire of your heart is, what would you say? Think about that for a minute and then read this verse from Psalm 37.

“Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 NKJV

This is such a wonderful verse, such a sweet promise from a Father to His children. It reminds me of how we relate to our little ones. We want to give them all the things their hearts desire. And we want them to also desire to know us, love us, and have fellowship with us.

I must admit though, my understanding of this well known verse has recently changed, or at least become much deeper than it has been in the past. I used to read this verse and think that it meant that if I genuinely seek to follow God, pray, read the Bible, go to church, then as a result He’s going to bless me with the things I want most in my heart. Sign me up!

Now to be honest, that is partly true. In my own life God has been more kind and more generous than I can even begin to describe. Many times when I have turned to Him in prayer He has given me not only what I asked for specifically, but so much more than I could have imagined! I believe when He does this, it is to display His unmatched kindness and generosity to us.

heart-love-romance-valentine

The part of my understanding that has changed is actually just a subtlety in the way the words of this verse are read. I had always read it like this: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 NKJV

As in, because your delight is in Him, He will give you those things that you already want so deeply in your heart. Not a bad thing, but maybe not complete.

Now let’s read it this way: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 NKJV

As in, the desires that are in my heart are there because God is the one who has and will put them there. That blew my mind when I first heard it preached that way. It was like the lightbulb just came on bright and clear.

sunset-hands-love-woman-1

What if the things I long for so deeply are actually in my heart because God placed them there according to His perfect will for my life? What if He did the same thing for you? But how do we know if our desires are God’s will or just our own?

The first thing we can do is make sure they are in agreement with God’s Word in the Bible. Do our desires agree with God’s promises and commands, or are they against them? Would achieving them be for our ultimate good and that of others? And most importantly, would they bring glory to God?

Lately, it has been my prayer to ask God to confirm in my heart the desires that come from Him. I also ask Him to take away those that are not His will so that I will not be confused or distracted chasing after things that are not His best for my life and the lives of my family.

The specific ways that God might want to use you, and the desires He wants to bring to fruition in your life are probably the ones that will keep growing stronger in your heart the more you pray. Those not from Him tend to fade away over time.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew‬ ‭6:33‬ ‭NIV

Another way we can have confidence that the desires of our heart are God’s will is by following the command that Jesus gives us in Matthew chapter 6, to seek His kingdom first and above all else. We can respond to life’s uncertainties and decisions and line up our desires with His will by constantly drawing closer to Him. We do this by reading about Him in His Word, and talking to Him through prayer. The more we do those things every day, the more we will get to know Him, and our own desires will begin to reflect His will. And in this beautiful cycle the more we know Him, the more we want to! And then one day we realize that knowing God Himself has become our greatest desire, more than anything else we want in the world!

‬‬“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” Psalm‬ ‭73:25‬ ‭NIV

 

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” ‭‭John‬ ‭17:3‬ ‭NKJV

Going back to Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the LordAnd He shall give you the desires of your heart.” I keep thinking about what it means to “delight” in someone. I know my children bring me great delight. But do I “delight also in the Lord?” And what does that look like? Some words that come to my mind when I try to understand delight, are people or things in my life that bring me great joy and happiness. To delight in the Lord means so much more I think. It means that He is my ultimate joy, my true happiness, my hope, my strength, my salvation, the one I want to be with and know intimately, the most precious treasure of my heart. Everything.

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“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” Jeremiah‬ ‭24:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When you started reading I asked you to think about your greatest desire. Did you figure it out? We went from talking about how God can give you your heart’s desires, to how He will give you those desires that He wills for you. Finally, knowing God Himself will become what we want more than anything in this life. He will truly be our delight and desire! That is my prayer for me and for you today.

The more you seek God’s will, the more you read His Word, the more you talk to the Lord in prayer, the more you realize that all good things come from Him, the more He will you give you what you long for, because He Himself will become your deepest heart’s desire!

In Every Season

Spring is here! The weather is getting warmer, the sun is shining longer. The change of seasons has me thinking about the seasons of life and motherhood and how quickly they change. Of all the advice I have been given from more “experienced” or “seasoned” moms, there is one saying that they all seem to want to impress upon moms of younger children. “The days are long, but the years are short.” Tell me about it! My sons are only 2 and 4 and I already can’t believe how fast the time is passing. I want it to slow down! But at the same time, those of us who spend all day, every day, with little people can struggle with having no time to ourselves as someone other than mommy. We fear that we might be losing who we were as an individual. Or at least our sanity! Seasons change fast in life and in motherhood. If we realize that we can slow down, take a breath, and enjoy the beauty of each one while it is still in front of us.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This is a beautiful passage, found in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live.  I included all of verses 1-8 for you to read because it is such a great reflection on life. The focus of this post is really just the main idea of verse 1, “a time and a season for everything”, specifically as it relates to balancing being a mom to our kids, and an individual.

I became a mom at a relatively “older” age, in my mid-thirties, so I feel like I was given a good amount of time to figure out what I enjoy in life, and what makes me who I am. There are so many things, but my top three are: riding horses, playing piano/singing, and running. The first two I don’t get to do as often, but am thankful I still have in my life, and the third I do less than before having kids, but still once or twice a week.

My favorite time to run is in the morning. Sometimes I get to “sneak” out while my husband is home and my boys are still asleep and go for a run all by myself, and it’s glorious! I listen to music, spend time praying, and just run! But often my plan for “me” time actually goes a little more like this…alarm goes off, I hurry to dress, get my running shoes on, fill up a water bottle, quietly walk towards the front door and…”mommy!” My heart sinks! I just wanted a little time to run alone! It that too much to ask? Sometimes (I hate to admit the selfishness, but it’s there), as I am getting ready I even pray a quick prayer, “please let them stay asleep until I get out the door.”

But sometimes God has other plans, better plans. Usually it is my older son who wakes up and wants to come with me. So we break out the double stroller (if you haven’t pushed one lately, let me tell you, it’s HARD!) Sometimes they both wake up and then it’s even heavier. But I can honestly say that some of my sweetest runs lately have been when one or both of them are with me.

I remember one particular morning I really wanted to go by myself and my four year old woke up. I grumbled in my heart and my attitude, but told him of course he could come. Snacks packed, loaded up, kid wrapped in a blanket, off we went. The first thing he said was “Mommy, I love you! I love to come with you.” Heart melting! Now I always make it a point to say how much I love when he is with me, and it’s the truth! That morning we passed many neighbors out walking. I am trying to teach him to say “good morning” as we go by each person, and he kept asking me what their names were. I told him mommy doesn’t know everyone’s name and of course he wanted to stop and ask. We asked one sweet older lady and she smiled and told us. It seemed like it made her day. I told my son that God made him with such a caring heart towards people. He truly wants to know them, know their names and who they are. I would have missed that precious moment if I had been alone like I had wanted. That is just one example of all the sweet times we have had: playing pretend, thanking God for the sunrise, the beautiful creation, seeing animals, stops at the park, finding giant sticks, most of all making memories together!

I don’t know if my sons are old enough to remember the details of any of these specials times, but I know I will! And I hope and pray that even if they can’t remember, the bonds we are building are still deep down in their little hearts as they grow.

There is so much in life to enjoy! God is so kind and gracious in the world he made for us! There are so many things I still want to do, but in this season of life with little ones, I just don’t have time for it all. I have to chose what is most important.

I haven’t lost who I am as a person. I am just sharing it with my sons and letting them get to know me too. Instead of sitting down and writing a song, we sit down and sing “Jesus Loves Me.” Instead of galloping off into the wind, I am leading my little guy in the saddle. And in this season, it is every bit as wonderful as it was before!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3: 11 NKJV

There will always be races to run, horses to ride, songs to sing, instruments to play, paintings to paint, books (and blogs) to read and write, vacations to take, concerts to see, sporting events to go to, restaurants to try, movie to see, places to serve at church…the list is endless. There is a time for everything! But this is the only time my children will ever be two and four years old. Once that season is over, it is gone. It is true for whatever age your children are right now. Whether you are in the infant or toddler season, school age, running them around to practices and events like a taxi service, teenage years, or ready to let them fly out of the nest, enjoy every minute because the next season will be here before we know it!

Just a note, I do still enjoy running by myself. We do need time to re-charge as moms, whether through hobbies or fellowship with other adults, or just time to ourselves when we are able. More importantly, I think we need to renew our strength and our relationship with the Lord through prayer and Bible study (even just a few minutes each day). But that is a whole other post. God knows the days I need to be by myself and the days I need the company of my children. Sometimes they stay asleep a little longer, and I go out and run, and I know it’s a gift! I talk to God and I love the solitude. But the next time my running shoes are on and I hear a sweet voice saying “mommy”, my heart smiles instead of grumbling. It’s all about perspective. God is teaching me so much through my children.

“The days are long but the years are short.” That’s what all the moms say.  It’s so true and I’m thankful for the long days because I don’t want to miss them. I want to treasure what a gift it is to be with my children in every season!

Not Home Yet

In a few days, it will mark one year since we packed up the minivan and drove over 1,200 miles. We moved halfway across the country to a new home in a new city where we didn’t know a soul. Just two years before that, we packed up to move 1,200 miles the other direction! If you are counting, that makes two cross-country moves in two and a half years! I can’t say that I recommend this as a lifestyle pattern. I can say that the experience has taught me some important lessons that I would not have learned without moving (literally) way outside of my comfort zone.

Moving to a new place brings up so many mixed emotions. First, there is the sadness in leaving behind people we love, and in missing the familiar routines and the security those bring. There were times when it felt like my heart physically ached for the people and places that were so far away. The loneliness in the beginning is hard!

At the same time, there is also excitement about what God has in store for us and who He might introduce us to in a new place. It really is a daily emotional roller coaster!

Days turn into week and months; we begin to make new friends and routines and feel a sense of belonging in the new place. Then there is the feeling of being torn and having my heart in two (or more) different places at the same time.

Finally, there comes a sense of peace and contentment. There is the ability to rest, and trust that wherever I am today is where God must want me to be. So I should look for the ways He is teaching me and try to be a witness to His goodness wherever we are located on the map.

In this post, I would like to share with you a few of the things that moving has taught me. I think they are ideas that can apply to wherever we find ourselves along the road of life.

 

1. Live one day at a time.

One of my biggest struggles with moving is my tendency to live looking back and longing for what I had in another place. The other problem I have is trying to look too far into the future to imagine what life will look like years ahead. Whether I am looking in the rear view mirror or squinting to see what is up the road, I risk missing the beauty and opportunities of the day that are right in front of me.

“This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NLT

The Bible says this is the day to rejoice, today! And in fact, today is the only day we can rely on. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring or even if tomorrow will come. God gives us a new opportunity every 24 hours to live another day. That gift should be enough to makes us rejoice!

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34 NIV

Being a mom definitely comes with enough to keep us busy without adding in worrying about yesterday and tomorrow. We can eliminate so much of our daily anxiety by simply turning to God first.

Today is the next beautiful page in your scrapbook of memories! 

Today is the best day to intentionally practice contentment through prayer, an attitude of thankfulness, and the study of His Word.

 

2. Be on a mission.

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 NIV

When we think of the gospel mandate to “go into all the world” we usually think of missionaries traveling to far away lands. Many of us moms will not be called to the remote places of the globe, so we tend to feel like this command doesn’t really apply to us. Besides, our kids are our disciples, right? But wherever we are, in a small town, suburb, or big city, we are still part of “all the world”. Wherever God has placed you can be your mission field.

Realizing that God has a purpose for me in each new place that we live helps me to change my focus from my feelings, to the bigger picture and the world around me. With both moves I decided to go with my heart open. My “mission” was to make friends and try share God’s love with every opportunity. I made up my mind to talk to as many moms as I could meet during the day (even if I felt uncomfortable) and try to shine a light with a smile, a kind word, or an invitation to church or a play date. The playground has been my favorite place meet other moms. Being in this stage of motherhood creates a kind of understanding that makes it easy to strike up a conversation.

The result for me has been the creation of lasting friendships. There are so many special people that I treasure and care about deeply in each place we have lived, friends who have blessed my life with so much richness. It’s hard to imagine that I would never have met them without going through the struggles of moving. I am so thankful to God for bringing people into my life who remind me that it is about so much more than being where I want to be and doing what I want to do. It is about being where He wants me to be and doing what He wants me to do!

 

3. Focus on Eternity

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:18‬ ‭NIV

This world is not our final home. Life is so short compared to eternity, like the blink of an eye. We get so caught up in our own plans and our busy lives, we forget that there is something so much greater up ahead. In those times it helps to pause and refocus on things that are lasting.

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” John 14:2 NIV

We all have a “dream” home. In the center of mine is a beautiful room, with windows floor to ceiling. Sitting in front of the windows is a shiny black grand piano. Outside is land and green grass with horses happily grazing. I like to imagine that home, but I may or may not have a place like that in this life and I’m totally ok with that. I know that whatever I can dream up, can’t even compare to the joy I will experience when I see my Savior and the place He has prepared for me!

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:3-6 NIV

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3 NKJV

There is a forever home. It is far better and more glorious than anything we can dream or imagine in this world. And Jesus is the way! He is how we get there and He is also the destination.  Knowing the one true God is eternal life itself, it is what home feels like! Imagine that feeling of being away on a trip and then rounding the corner and seeing your house. Home is such a comfort, filled with people we love, safety and security. Now imagine an eternal home, a perfect home, full of people we love and best of all God Himself! This home will last forever, and nothing can take it away. Those who put their trust in Jesus Christ have that place ready and waiting!

Conclusion

Maybe you are someone like me who has moved around and had to open your heart to new places and new people, or maybe you are someone who has lived your whole life in one place. Either way, life brings changes and often leaves us feeling like we don’t know where home really is. God has placed eternity in our hearts, and we yearn for our true, forever home. I hope that along this journey of life it will help you as it has helped me, to live one day at a time, be on a mission, and focus on eternity. And until we get there take heart, we are just not home yet!