Keep Fighting

Each time someone shares that they are in a season of constant bickering or fighting with their spouse, I say something to the effect of,

“That’s okay. Fighting is better than apathy. Just fight fairly, and well.”

It’s true.

There are seasons. There are days, weeks, and sometimes months, where you feel a constant prickly tension. There are times when you wonder why you can’t seem to get on the same page. There are moments, when you voice aloud your distaste for being at odds with one another, and there are stolen moments in quiet, when you let the tears fall with no one to see.

Keep fighting.

Literally. Don’t stop caring enough to fight.

Fight fairly, though. Don’t lose sight of what a God-honoring marriage looks like.  No two people, if they are being open and honest, agree 100% of the time. You see, a God-honoring marriage is not one that is void of disagreement. On the contrary, it may be filled with it at times, but it will come down to the position of our hearts. Are our hearts aligned with His? Are we willing to humbly accept when we are wrong? Are we willing to extend grace, despite our circumstance? Are we willing to listen, when we are bubbling over with words? Are we willing to fight fairly? Again, are our hearts aligned with His?

Keep fighting for your marriage, but please fight fairly.

And, look for the light. Because, friends, there are other, much longer, and better seasons. There are days, weeks, and often months and years, where the relationship is sweet. There are times when you realize that the path is smooth, not because it has been an easy path, but because of the rough days, weeks, and months, that wore away at the sharpest of edges. It is a well-worn path. There are moments, when you feel so strongly, there are no words to speak, and even in the quietest moments, the tears fall from such overwhelming joy.

There is always light.

Marriage is a beautiful, messy climb, full of crags. It’s craggy business. Craggy. I like it. One definition is “rough in a way that suggests strength”. Keep climbing. Keep fighting. Climb well, and fight fairly. Look for the light, because traversing one crag at a time keeps us moving upward, and the summit is just ahead. When you get there, be sure to turn around and check out the incredible view. Then, hand in hand, you can say, “Look what we climbed. Together.” Then, turn back around, because a new journey awaits. You’ll be stronger, ready to face new adventures. Together. Keep fighting, friends.

 

*PLEASE NOTE that if there is verbal, physical, mental, or spiritual abuse in your marriage, it is not my recommendation to continue in that toxic or harmful environment. If this is you, please confide in someone you trust, or call The National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

 

Stop Taking Care of Yourself

In our culture of self-sustainability, self-help, and self-care, this sounds preposterous. “Stop taking care of yourself.” Walk into any bookstore and you’ll immediately find an array of self-help books. Scroll through Pinterest for a variety of betterment ideas. Glance at Instagram for a lot of post-workout selfies and green smoothie photos. You get the idea. We are surrounded with a myriad of ways to care for ourselves. Which is exactly why the title of this post seems so aggressive and anti-YOU. But its not. Read on, friends.

A few months back, I had the privilege of attending a wonderful conference with my husband. Kid-free. Hotel. Enjoyable conference. Refreshment. Rest. <insert abrupt, screeching record sound here> Wait, did I say rest? Right. Well, I anticipated rest. The first night was wrought with the strangeness of a hotel room with an extra bed we didn’t need, a bit of anxiety, and so on. I didn’t sleep. The following day was busy. Conference. Wal-Mart, late night arrival back at the hotel. Ahhhh. Now, we could rest. Right. Did I say rest, again? The second night was complete with a shaking room (seriously, still have no clue), intoxicated hotel guests talking loudly in the halls, and so on. We weren’t at some dumpy motel either. My husband made sure we were at a nice, safe, reputable hotel. So, cue second night of no sleep, and a desperate, more than usual, need for coffee the following morning.

My go-to Starbucks beverage has always been a Vanilla Latte. I loved it in high school, and I love it now (though I take far less syrup in it now!). Unfortunately, in my old age (read: 31), apparently my stomach can’t handle fancy coffee drinks anymore, but that morning I NEEDED a good strong coffee with extra espresso and the whole nine yards, so I splurged. It was worth the uncomfortable tummy effects, and it was awesome…until I spilled it on the floor under my chair at the conference, before I had the chance to enjoy even half of it. I can’t make this stuff up. Don’t cry over spilled coffee.

My life could be a sitcom most days.

I think my husband thought I was going to come unglued right then and there. Bless his heart. His look was either of concern for me, or for the people around me; maybe both. I’m not sure, but his face revealed his uncertainty in that moment. (I don’t do well with no sleep…not to mention spilled coffee. I’m working on it.)

I survived, but here is where it gets good (i.e., where God wrecked shop in my heart…).

There was a resounding theme that day and I continued to be encouraged through scripture and song, reminding me of the rest found in Jesus. I was struck with the realization that I often try so hard to take the care of myself, upon myself, that I end up exhausting myself through my efforts. Do you follow? In my efforts to find rest, I was using up more energy and heaping more burden upon myself. Oh, the irony.

In that moment, that day, I was forced to look past my exhaustion, and find soul refreshment in God. I had no choice in the face of complete exhaustion. I was overwhelmed, honestly, with the realization that I had been taking care of myself for so long, and not allowing myself to be cared for by the mighty creator of this world.

The creator of my soul. MY creator.

I was reminded of Psalm 23.

I read it through again today. I wrote it down. (Quick – Grab your Bible!)

HE

  • lets me lie down
  • leads me to quiet waters
  • renews my life
  • leads me down right paths
  • is with me
  • comforts me
  • nourishes me
  • anoints me
  • pursues me with goodness and a faithful love

Because of what HE does, my cup overflows. Not like an overflowing plate of STUFF that is burdensome…no. An overflowing cup. Like a creamy vanilla latte (or whatever you prefer in your mug) that doesn’t empty out on the floor or cause tummy trouble. Starbucks doesn’t hold a candle to this cup. Friends, this cup is GOOD, because our Father is GOOD!

A shepherd guides his sheep, not the other way around. I don’t find rest because I chase it down, but because He leads me there. The path I think looks peaceful, may actually be steep and strenuous. I don’t have to exhaust myself, running from place to place, seeking rest. I seek Him, and He provides what I need.

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God tells His people, in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” and Jesus tells His followers in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of that.

So, while I don’t condemn “taking care of yourself” in practical ways, or drifting off to sleep when your body needs physical rest, I challenge you to find your soul’s rest in Jesus. By all means, go get that pedicure and nap when the baby does! Remember, though, that you, my friend, were created to need physical re-charge, as well as emotional, mental, and spiritual refreshment. Let us not forsake the latter.

I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. – Psalms 62:1

Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. – Psalms 62:5

A Community of 4 Year Olds

My youngest son and I walked hand in hand, into the church for the Wednesday night kids’ program. He was tired from a long day and just hanging on by a thread. It’s tough to be 4, sometimes. It’s even tougher when you have an expectation and things don’t go as planned. (Don’t we know it!) An unplanned (minor) hiccup in his evening caused a colossal meltdown, and if you have been around children, you’ll know the meltdown I’m talking about. TEARS. Oh, the tears. Buried face in my shirt. “I just want YOU, mommy.” Kids pouring in from all directions. Noise. Stares. Suddenly I’m surrounded by a group of 4 and 5 year old kids. “Is Levi okay?” “Levi, what’s wrong?” Wide eyed with concern, their faces were sweet and caring. No judgment. Not wondering why this kid was having a meltdown over something that was seemingly insignificant. Just care and concern. Just community.

Community. It can be such a beautiful and rewarding part of our lives. We desire it. We crave it! I think that there are three important things that we can grow and learn from the Pre-K community.

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 1. Community takes effort and sacrifice.

Just before we left for church that evening, my sweet, tired boy was lying on the couch, watching his favorite show. Shoes kicked off, relaxing, just being 4. At the first mention of getting shoes on and going to church, his response was that he wanted to finish his show…and he didn’t want to put his shoes on (me either, kid). I casually mentioned a few friends’ names and let him know that if he wanted to see them, he would need to put on his shoes so that we could leave. He perked up, said, “Oh! I want to see my friends!”, put on his shoes and turned off the show. For him, that was sacrifice. It took effort and a made up mind to do the things he didn’t feel like doing so that he could go to church and visit with his little tribe of Pre-K friends. For us grown-ups, this might look like allowing others into our homes, carving out time for coffee with a friend, or leaving the house, even when we don’t feel like it. Community may require some sacrifice and certainly some effort, but don’t doubt that it will be worth it.

2. Community is beautiful when judgment is withheld.

Community can be messy, when we meet each other in our weaknesses, not just our strengths. As I observed the wide eyed, pudgy cheeked faces peering at their friend in distress, I was struck with the genuine concern that I saw. There was no judgment for their friend that was causing a scene and struggling. There was only love. There were no sideways glances or rolled eyes. You know, any one of those sweet little faces may have been tear streaked just hours before when their day did not go as expected. They saw a friend in need, and they responded with love. For us, this will certainly mean that we reserve judgment and see the person, beyond a situation at hand. We may not always agree or have the same situational response as another person, but we can still love the soul of who they are and extend grace.

3. Community refreshes our souls.

When we left that evening, my son was all smiles. He had pushed through the “don’t wanna”s, been refined and encouraged, and ultimately experienced soul refreshment. It is GOOD to be involved in a community that supports, encourages, and cares. We were created for community, and we will be lacking without it.

Shout out to the 4 and 5 year old cuties, for the sweet and genuine display of community that I was honored to witness. We could all learn a few things from observing the pint-sized community of children, especially those that are young enough to not be tainted by the silly, presumptuous notions of grown-ups. Perhaps we should all be a bit more childlike in our care of others.

“Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

 

Faith Markers

As another year is quickly coming to a close…

Some are still reeling from grief, a gaping wound, fresh on their heart. The year has held joy for those who have welcomed new life or experienced life anew. Some have traveled the world, and many have basked in the retreat of their home.

Some hearts have journeyed to places that they could never have imagined, and some to places where they never wanted to imagine.

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We have all been somewhere. This year, we did not spin our wheels to nowhere.

These are trails, not destinations. We are still on our way, just passing through.

There have been friendships lost, and friendships gained. Warm embraces, cold shoulders, loyalties defended, and relationships offended.

We have risen, fallen, and stood up again. We have been weary, and we have been renewed.

Like the tale of Hansel and Gretel, we have left breadcrumbs behind, telling of our journey, and along the way, we have distinctive markers that now define us.

Markers that define our faith.

Carved into a tree, roots planted deep, or etched into stone, irremovable.

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The Israelis, in the book of Joshua, were instructed to gather stones, in order to build a memorial, as a reminder of what God had done. You see, He moved water for them. As in, stopped a river from flowing, so that they could cross on dry land.

Joshua told them, “Cross over again in front of the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan River. Then each of you pick up a stone on his shoulder with which to build a memorial, one for each of the tribes of Israel. Let this serve as a sign among you, so that when your children ask in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean to you,’ then you’ll say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan River were cut off in front of the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan River, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones will become a memorial to the Israelis forever.” (Joshua 4:5-7)

They were continuing on their journey, but this was a significant part; one leg of the trip that was worth remembering. It is all worth remembering, but some places deserve special recognition. In that moment, it is worth celebrating or acknowledging, but even more so, in the days to come.

Then he told the Israelis, “When your descendants ask their parents in years to come, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ you are to tell your descendants: ‘Israel crossed this Jordan River on dry ground because the LORD your God dried up the water of the Jordan River right in front of you, until you had crossed over, just as the LORD your God had done to the Reed Sea—which he had dried up in front of us until we had crossed it also.’ Do this so that all of the people of the earth may know how strong the power of the LORD is, and so that you may fear the LORD your God every day.” (Joshua 4:21-24)

Looking back on the markers that define our faith, we see God’s provision, faithfulness, patience, grace, and more.

As we enter a new year, we will undoubtedly be journeying toward times of joy, sorrow, excitement, confusion, faith, doubt, and more. As we enter those times, we can reflect upon markers that we have erected in the past.

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In times of doubt, we will remember when our faith was restored.

In times of sorrow, we will recall when our Lord sustained us.

In times of darkness, we will rest in the promise of His light.

In times of weakness, we will reflect on His strength.

In times of joy, we are thankful to our Father, forever the giver of all good things.

In times of grace, we will remember the journey.

In ordinary times, we will worship and remember.

We remember His gifts.

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Let there be markers that define our faith.

Let us not forget. Let us pick up stones and etch into trees, build memorials, remember, and tell what the Lord has done for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Difference Maker (Part 2 in the Peace Series)

I want to be difference maker. I know you do too. As we navigate through this maze of life, with a passion for the Gospel of Jesus, we must tread with the strength and courage of a lion, while exhibiting grace and peace, like that of a lamb. We will require strength as we walk head on into places where the name of Jesus is trampled on, and we courageously say, “That is MY God.” We will certainly need the extra grace, as we encounter the broken who reject Christ, because they do not understand authentic love.

Sadly, we often leave the lamb behind and charge forward with a roar. We feel compelled to speak up, yet when we do so, we often leave no room for peace. Paul tells us in Romans (12:1), “If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.” But, what does that look like for us, who are anxious to make a difference in the conflicted world around us?

Standing strong on the Gospel of Jesus does not mean we approach the debate podium with every opportunity that we are given. The Gospel of Jesus does not bid us to fight a fleshly battle, only to come away, both parties bruised and battered, yet no better for it. The way of Jesus does not lead us to be “right” or to bring down the gavel of condemnation.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.” James 3:17-18

Often, the way of our Savior calls us to wisely walk past our side of the debate, to bring a glass of water to the opposing party. Often, we would be better off shredding our notes and lifting our eyes to see past the offending topic, and into the eyes of the person that Jesus loves. Then, and only then, can we truly be the hands and feet of Jesus.

When we read about the ministry of Jesus, we see him stoop down to look into the eyes of a prostitute, dine with a despised and corrupt tax-collector, answer the questions of a doubting religious leader, and the list goes on.This was His avenue for bringing light. Instead of telling the world that it is dark, we can be the defining light. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus. Our votes, our signs waved high, and our social media posts won’t do that. It all comes together under a banner of grace and love, only found through hearts turned heavenward, seeking to pull the scorched, aching hearts of this world, under the cool umbrella of Christ.

We don’t dare neglect our commission to share the good news, but we press into the hearts of people to do so. We proudly bear the name of Jesus, but we do so with gentleness and respect.

“…but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.” 1 Peter 3:15-16

No shouting or shunning is required to bring the good news to those who need it. Less debate and drama, more Jesus, please. To live at peace with those around us may require a heaping dose of humility and hearts surrendered. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but it goes far deeper, beyond the reaches of this world (Eph. 6). Friends, let’s lay down our signs, and extend a hand. We can be firm in our convictions, without scarring people in the process. Seek out wisdom from above, gentleness and peace, and I believe you will be a difference maker.

Peace is Better

This morning, I dropped all three of my babies (don’t tell them I called them that!) off at school…and left. I left their minds and hearts in the care of three amazing teachers, but more importantly, I left their minds and hearts in the hands of Jesus.

We home schooled last year, and at the time it truly was best for our family.

Refocus. Yes. We needed to refocus and slow down, taking in each day, in close stride with one another.

It was good for us. I love home school, and I have deep admiration for home school families. Even more so, I admire families that follow their convictions, and are at peace with the decisions that they make for themselves.

Peace. Being at peace with your decisions, no matter what they are, is so important.

A few months ago, my thought process looked something like this:

“Should we continue homeschooling?”

“I’m overwhelmed. Something has to give.”

“Should we go back to public school?”

“But, what if my home school friends think that I no longer support home school…”

“People might think that I couldn’t handle my kids…”

“What would <insert name> do?”

“Am I a bad mom for feeling like I need to let this go at this season of my life?”

“I feel guilty because I cannot do it ALL.” (seriously, y’all)

Whoa. Friends, that is not what peace looks like. If peace is like a river, my heart and mind were a raging sea.

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Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)
Ah, yes. Pray. I was so busy thinking and worrying, that I failed to take my worries to Him, who knows no worry. Him, whose peace surpasses my own anxious thoughts. Him, who will fiercely guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus, when all I must do is ask.
“The one who trusts in himself is a fool,
but one who walks in wisdom will be safe.” (Proverbs 28:26)
After prayer and open discussion with my gracious husband, we both felt at peace with our decision to make a change for our family. Knowing that last year’s decision was still good and right for us then, we both felt a burden lifted when we were at peace with making changes for THIS season of our lives. So many factors were considered during this ongoing discussion and time of seeking the Lord, but that is beside the point. The factors don’t even matter now, and I write not to defend our family’s choice, but instead to proclaim that walking in peace is better. Better than guilt, worry or fear. I was able to leave this morning, knowing that this was a God-honoring decision for our family.
Peace comes when you rely on God, and relying on God is always better. Peace is better.
You will keep in perfect peace the mind [that is] dependent [on You], for it is trusting in You.
Trust in the Lord forever, because in Yah, the Lord, is an everlasting rock!” (Isaiah 26:3-4)
What sweet freedom we have when we walk in the grace that is offered. Grace from above has no expectations.
“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)
Oh, what we can do for His kingdom when we trust in Him, walking in freedom and peace!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
I don’t know where you are lacking peace in your life, but be encouraged. Freedom = peace, and freedom comes from above, by the grace of God.
Go to your God, lay down your worries, and allow Him to do what only He can do. Breathe in the relief that comes when guilt, expectation and worry are lifted down from your shoulders and replaced with peace that is light as a feather. Give it up, let him calm your raging sea so that you can experience the soothing river of peace. I promise. It is better. 🙂

I’m Not.

Woe to Instagram, Facebook, and other wonderful social media sites. I love these sites as much as the next person. I dutifully post my cute family moments, victories, and smiles. Occasionally, I even post a picture of a sick child with a cute sad emoji to bring home the “reality” of it all…of course, while cuddling the sick child, preparing organic, homemade chicken noodle soup, and smiling at my husband as he enters a spotless home to sit down with a hot dinner. NOT.

Please.

We currently home school. I run a business. I am in a marriage. I have three children. I’ve been told that I must have the patience of a saint.

Patient…I’m Not.

You should be a fly on the wall in my home.

We moved last week, we had house guests (which we were happy to have!), our 4 year old was sick for over a week, and we have been on a home school break for a few weeks since we are schooling through part of the summer this year. One day last week we had muffins(made by our local coffee shop) at 10:30am, I yelled spoke firmly at a kid for running, and I considered closing myself in a closet to escape the demands of the week. Half of my kitchen was still in boxes, and I couldn’t even begin to think about cooking a meal for my family. Y’all, to top it all off, I broke my coffee press while trying to make coffee. If you know me, you know that’s a big deal. My husband comforted me by saying, “It’s okay, babe. It’s just one of those days.”, to which I said, “Yes, but it has been one of those days every day for a few weeks now.”

There are days that do feel effortless, and are filled with warm fuzzy feelings, but hey, there are plenty of days where I am counting down the hours until bedtime, while covertly peeking out the window to see if the school bus is passing by any time soon. This is my life. I love it, and I wouldn’t change it for anything, BUT it is not perfect.

I am human, and so is every other mom out there. Don’t trust the Facebook window, because that’s all it is. A window. You don’t see the junk drawers, messy closets, dirty socks and unmade beds. You get a glimpse into a window that the other person allows you to briefly peer into.

When an individual makes the choice to home school, work from home, work outside the home, have 10 children, raise their family on foreign soil, or fill in the blank, it does not necessarily mean that they are naturally patient, organized, gentle, calm, etc..

I can assure you that I do not have the patience of anyone who is known for their exceptional patience. Nope. Me? I have little to no patience on any given day, not counting the days that are extra hard, hormonal or tiring. By my own power, I am weak and impatient. I am short tempered and easily angered. That is Stephania. At the heart of who I am, I am naturally selfish and weak.

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BUT, thank the Lord that I do not always (yet sometimes I do..ugh) rely on my own power to get me through the day! It is by the grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus, that I can portray any sort of character that might be viewed as patience. See Galatians 5 for a full list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I strive for those qualities, but friends, I am not perfect.

Thankfully, I’m not.

If I were, I would have no need for the redeeming power of Jesus, and then my children would not be able to see my brokenness redeemed, day in and day out. They need to see that, because they are just as broken. We don’t fail our children when we are imperfect, we fail them when we are prideful, and don’t allow our own brokenness to teach grace and redemption.

Can we begin to strive for authenticity within our friendships and families? Can we open our windows a little wider and allow our imperfection to encourage other moms on the same path? Can we model grace for our children, by living it out and letting them peek into the messy, soul redeeming work that is ongoing in our lives?

Believe me when I say… an authentic mom has far more reach than a perfect mom.

Let’s be okay with saying, “I’m not.”

When Selfishness Preys 

As I wiped down counters, the table, and swept the floor for approximately the 10,000th time this week, I felt worn. Honest moment, anyone? I felt angry and frustrated. How in the world did the floor get THAT dirty after just a few hours since I last swept? I made a frustrated face at my husband (I can be really mature) as he headed out the door again for another obligation, while I was here cleaning and feeding children once more. Oh, did I mention that all 3 children had fevers and sore throats? I felt resentment creeping in, ready to make my life seem miserable for awhile.

I know that this post isn’t pretty, but friends, this is the honest truth. Ladies, I KNOW that I am not the only one. I chose this life. Heck, I even love it most days. But there are certainly days when my selfishness rears its very ugly head and I become bitter because life just isn’t a walk on the beach every day (or maybe it is since it’s beautiful and annoying at the same time…hello, sand!). Ugh. I have a great life! I need someone to be on standby to slap this ugliness right out of me in these self-centered moments. Since I don’t have anyone with nothing better to do than stand around waiting to slap me, I have decided to fasten bits of truth around my house, where I know I will need to see it the most. There are certain areas that I NEED reminders from God’s word of where my heart should land when my emotions are acting like jumping beans. I definitely need a reminder in the kitchen, where I spend a lot of time preparing meals and cleaning up. I also would benefit from reminders near the laundry room, and in the bathroom. Those are the main areas where I find myself huffing and puffing with a sour attitude. I am also putting scripture on my bathroom mirror, so that each morning and evening I will be begin and end with rock solid truth.

I wonder if I could get some ladies to join me in this? I know that we all struggle, even if our struggles look different than the woman’s next to us. We all have areas of weakness! Let’s shore up those weak areas and make them stronger through the power of God’s truth in our lives.

Here are some examples of what I will be placing around my home:

“Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.” -Philippians 2:14-15

“And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.” -Colossians 3:15

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.” -Colossians 3:23-24

“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

“…understand this; Everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” -James 1:19

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.” -James 3:17-18

“Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men…” -Ephesians 6:7

“Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom and loving instruction is on her tongue.” -Proverbs 31:25-26

We would do well to remember that we will never be perfect and we don’t have to plaster a big cheesy smile on our face every single moment of the day. However, when we sow wisdom, peace, and joy in our hearts and minds, we will reap that harvest in our homes.
Perhaps your choices of scripture are different. Would you share below? I would love to pray for each of you that are joining this little challenge to bring more joy and peace to your homes. Please comment here to let me know, and share your scriptures that you will be leaning on as your serve in your homes! 🙂

When Loneliness Lingers

Have you ever been in a crowd of people, yet still felt lonely? I was talking with a friend last week who could relate to that exact feeling. I have been able to relate many times in my life too. No matter who you are, what personality type you have, or how popular you are, there is a chance that you have felt the sting of loneliness at one time or another. Sometimes we feel excluded from social circles, alone in our parenting decisions, or we feel isolated because of a season of life. Regardless, most of us know that nagging feeling of loneliness, and it sure isn’t pretty.

So, what do we do when loneliness lingers? What then, when it tempts our hearts to move away from joy, toward a dark place that we have no desire to be? Loneliness, if not dealt with properly, can breed anger, bitterness, resentment, and a host of other really ugly things. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this played out in my own life. Believe me when I say, you don’t want those ugly things. No, thank you.

1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast our anxiety (or cares) on God, because He cares for us. We must remember that He cares for us, and desires for us to have joy! Our God is FOR us, and not against us (Rom. 8:31). He is FOR our joy. He is not a God that sits idle in the heavens, with no regard for our lives. He cares for us. When we really absorb that, allow it to soak into the dark crevices of our lives, it changes us. It changes how we handle loneliness.

We are never promised perfect relationships or unending mountaintop emotions, but we are promised joy, eternal joy and peace that transcends emotion, when we rest in Him. All throughout the Bible, we find joy in the hearts of those that trusted God with their burdens and allowed Him to use them, even when they felt lonely, dejected and just plain unusable. Turn to Him, who turns our mourning into joyful dancing (Psalm 30:11).

Now, while I believe that God has created us to have relationships, I also believe that he allows seasons when we are pressed to find our contentment in Him. Jesus promised that He would be with us to the end (Matt. 28:20) and we should not take that promise lightly. No matter how lonely we feel on this earth at times, we would do well to remember that this is not our forever home and that Jesus, is in fact with us here and now. Look at the apostle, Paul, who ministered from prison much of the time. Now, THIS was a man who was lonely and afflicted. In 2 Timothy 4, he writes of being alone and deserted when he faced his adversaries. BUT, in verse 17, he writes, But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the proclamation might be fully made through me and all the Gentiles might hear. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.” The Lord stood with him and strengthened him. Paul was serving God, even in his loneliness. How easy it would have been for him to give up, hide away and feel sorry for himself! But no, Paul, a self proclaimed servant of Jesus, chose to be used, even in his moment of aloneness. And we see here that the Lord was with him, providing strength, and even protection when he felt that he would surely go under. 

Seasons come and go, so rest assured that your lonely moments are just that. Moments. It’s how we respond to those moments that matters. 


Friends, how are we handling our times of loneliness? Are we allowing loneliness to define us, or are we allowing the Lord to refine us? We can run to our closets, or we can run to the One who cares for us. We can turn inward, or we can turn outward and be used for God’s glory. We will be blessed when we remove our focus from ourselves and seek to serve. Even in our times of loneliness, The Lord will stand with us. 😊

 

Truth Wins

What a filthy place our emotions can lead us if we aren’t careful. We can rapidly find ourselves submerged in a state of disillusionment and just plain crazy. When we allow our emotions to rule, we so quickly become entangled in a pattern of thinking that is detrimental to our joy. We can feel defeated and dissatisfied.

We live near the ocean, and while I don’t particularly care for swimming in the salty water or bringing sand into my house, I enjoy just watching the water. It is so powerful and majestic. I find it peaceful to watch the water as it rhythmically comes ashore, then back to sea again. Here’s the thing though: Just as the sand shifts and rearranges with each crashing wave, so do our emotions with each moment of our day. Here at the coast, we also have rock structures, called jetties. A jetty protects the shoreline of a body of water by acting as a barrier against erosion from currents, tides, and waves. A jetty is solid and does not move with each wave, tide or current. As is truth. The truths that we find in God’s word are like the jetties. They protect, stand strong, and redirect. Truth never wavers, but is constant and unchanging. Let me tell you, those jetties aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and more importantly, neither is God’s Word.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

So, friends, when we feel disillusioned, anxious, moody, or just plain crazy, we need to be finding those markers of truth, those jetties that God has placed for our benefit. We need to seek out that which stands firm amidst the waves, when we feel as if we are shifting. Emotions are good indicators of what is happening around us, but they don’t have to steal our joy.

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Do you feel like the shifting sand today? Run to your Redeemer, your Rock. He is your peace-giver. He is your joy. Run to His words and soak them up like warm rays of sunshine. They are life-giving.