pray

For This I Pray

 

Raising children is an enormous responsibility.

There are books a million on how to raise them, methods that may or may not work, milestones that must be achieved, and activities we feel are necessities in the hopes that we have done everything we can to give our kids the best childhood experience.

Yet so many times we forget the one thing that will do the most good. The one thing that doesn’t cost a dime, but the investment brings back a huge return. The one thing we are all capable of doing regardless of income or status.

Prayer.

I can remember my mother taking her Bible with her into her bedroom in the middle of the day, locking the door behind her, and hearing her pray for her marriage, daughters, family, and situations in her life. She would spend time crying before the Lord, pouring herself out before him, and then emerge with a confidence that her Lord had all of her most loved people and her deepest concerns in His hands.

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Between homeschooling us, helping our father in his ministry at the church, assisting him in counseling others, leading a weekly women’s Bible study, discipling women individually in our home, and being a wife and mother, one would wonder how she had the time to stop in the midst of the busyness to pray.

“If you are too busy to pray, you are busier than God wants you to be.” -Wanda E. Brunstetter

But prayer, communication with God, was a priority to her. In retrospect, I doubt she would have been able to accomplish all she did in her days if she didn’t take the time to stop and pray. And I am so eternally thankful that she did.

She prayed for us.

She prayed for our future husbands when we were single.

She prayed for my marriage after my wedding, and she continued to pray for my husband.

She prayed for God’s direction in my life.

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I cannot say that I stop in the middle of my day like she did, but because of her example, I find myself in constant communication with the Lord.

While I’m hanging or folding laundry, washing dishes, cooking dinner, cleaning a bathroom, or ever showering, I tell God everything about my day, children, husband, responsibilities and life. He already knows about all of it, but verbally talking to Him takes the heaviness of responsibility off of my shoulders and places them into His more than capable hands.

As I pray for my children specifically, this has become the prayer of my heart. I don’t want to leave their futures to chance. Instead, I prayerfully lay their futures at His feet as I take them to Him daily.

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For this I pray…

I pray that you grow to follow the Lord… and that I am a good example to you both.

I pray that you come to know the Lord personally and that you ask Jesus into your heart at an early age.

I pray that God always pours His blessings upon you and grants you favor in everything you do.

I pray that you become like Joseph, full of integrity and everything you touch will be blessed.

I pray that you are like Abraham and are considered a friend of God.

I pray that you are like Daniel, displaying wisdom and courage in every situation.

I pray that you are like David, and become a woman and man after God’s own heart.

I pray that you are like Esther and find favor with those in authority over you and that you do great things one day.

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I pray that you are like Moses, great leaders and yet known as the humblest of all.

I pray that you can make a request like Jabez and that God will grant you what you request.

I pray that God covers you with His hand, hedge, and shield of protection at all times.

I pray that your hearts always be softened to the Lord and that you are always able to hear His voice.

I pray that the voices of God and your parents are heard louder than the voices of those around you who may speak negatively in your direction.

I pray that you grow up to be like Jesus- kind, compassionate, wise, gentle, ready to give an answer, pure, in a deep relationship with our Heavenly Father- and that you grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man.

pray

legacy

The Original Purposeful Mom and Her Legacy

We as mothers hope to one day leave a legacy.

It drives us to do what we do, day in and day out. It’s why we make the choices we make on a daily basis. It’s why we get up every morning to face the challenges of the day again. Because one day our children will grow and become men and women who will either carry on our legacy- the core values we have spent our lives instilling in them in every way we could- or choose a path of their own.

Purposeful Moms would not even be here if not for a woman that God entrusted us to many years ago.

Let me introduce you to the original Purposeful Mom and the legacy she left behind.

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Her name was Ana. And she was gorgeous.

That’s not just my biased opinion either. As a teenager, she was super thin, had long, straight, bottle-blonde hair, and big brown eyes with lashes that went on forever. One day, as she was walking home, a gentlemen with a business card approached her. He told her that he was a modeling agent and his models would be featured on television that evening. He gave her the time, channel, and business card and went on his way. Ana went home that evening and turned on the TV. As she watched, she felt in her heart that she had a turning point choice to make. She could either choose to serve God with her life or choose to live a worldly lifestyle. That night she dedicated her life fully to Christ.

Her legacy taught me to always choose Christ and service to him.

Mom kept her make up very simple. Her beauty made cosmetics pretty unnecessary. But she always wore mascara. The mascara made her long lashes (which our children have inherited) more defined, and caused her beautiful brown eyes to stand out (Faye inherited her eyes). One evening as she was worshipping in church, she felt the desire to weep before the Lord, but she was afraid to because the tears would cause her mascara to stream down her face.  That night she vowed before God that she would never wear mascara again because she didn’t want to allow anything to stand between her and the worship of her God.

Her legacy taught me to care more about my relationship with God than how I look to others as I worship him.

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When she began dating my father, she chose to hold herself to God’s standard of conduct rather than society’s standard. Her purity of conduct not only carried her through her dating years but kept her faithful to her marriage vows.

Her legacy taught me to put Christ at the center of my dating relationship and marriage.

Before she married my father she prayed. She told God that she only wanted to marry my father if that marriage would be blessed by Him. As she prepared herself for her wedding day, she saw a tract in the bridal room of the church. The words on the tract said, “I will bless your marriage.”

Her legacy taught me to take my marriage to God before and after my wedding day.

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As a young couple trying to make ends meet, my parents had a strict budget to live on. They only had so much to spend on groceries per week. But one day, their church was having a get together and asked them to provide the milk and coffee for the evening. My parents knew that by doing this, they would not have enough to buy meat for themselves for the week. But they bought the milk and coffee anyway. The night of the event, the weather turned bad and the event was canceled. Someone from the church called my parents and told them that the meat that had been purchased by the church would go bad before the event could be rescheduled. They were asked if they would like to stop by and pick up some of the meat to take home for themselves.

Her legacy taught me that by giving to the Lord, He would always provide for my needs.

My father played in a band in his younger days. One night, as he my mother and his younger sister were walking back to the car, a man attempted to mug him. The man told the gals to stay quiet and no one would get hurt. My mother pointed her Bible at him and began shouting, “I rebuke you in Jesus name!” The man lowered his knife, took $5 out of my dad’s pocket, and took off running.

Her legacy taught me to call on the name of the Lord in times of trouble.

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My mother prayed for us before we were born, after we were born, when we were sick, for our future husbands, and for our well being.

Her legacy taught me to take my children before the Lord at all times for everything.

Mom taught us God’s Word on a daily basis. Until the day before my wedding, she would sit with me at the breakfast table and teach me a lesson straight from God’s Word.

Her legacy taught me that teaching my children God’s Word was my responsibility, not the church’s.

Today makes nine years since my mother passed away, yet her legacy lives on. It lives on in her daughters.

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As a Purposeful Mom, I pray that one day I leave a legacy for my children.

A godly legacy.

A legacy that will lead them to the throne of God on a daily basis.

That is a true legacy.

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faith

Faith the Size of a Tie

I was 26. And single.

All of the people in my circle were in a relationship, engaged, or married with children on the way.

And then there was me.

The oldest in our Sunday school class.

Single.

I would go home from church, saddened because, as wonderful as my family was, I felt that empty feeling that comes when you know you are missing your other half, but you don’t even know who that other half is. I didn’t have that special someone that was made just for me.

Then one day as I was shopping at Bealls (a Florida only franchise), I happened to walk past the men’s ties.

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And that is when God put a thought in my heart.

Buy one.

I questioned the thought.

“For who?”

And I felt God tell my heart, Buy one, have it gift wrapped at the back counter, and put it in your closet until the right time.

As far as I knew, there was no one that I currently knew who the tie could possibly be for (I did know this guy named Brian… my friend… the one I practiced talking to guys with since I knew nothing about talking to guys… but I never imagined the tie would be for him…).

But I obeyed.

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I had faith the size of a tie that one day there would be a man made just for me who would wear that tie.

I had faith the size of a tie that God had not forgotten about me. Faith that He was ready with pen in hand to write my love story.

I had faith the size of a tie that my turn would come, and I would have my very own love story to tell.

When we feel that we have been forgotten…

When we are saddened that we are the only ones in our circle who have not reached a particular milestone…

When we see those around us enjoying the gifts we are so fervently praying for…

We need to have faith.

We only have to have faith the size of a mustard seed.

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It doesn’t have to be big faith. A mustard seed is small. A mustard seed is 2-3 millimeters in diameter, but Jesus tells us that faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain (Matthew 17:20).

The contrast in size is so great. A tiny seed. A giant mountain. Yet God does not require the size of our faith to match the challenge. Sometimes our faith is only the size of a mustard seed. But as we see God move each mountain we encounter, the size of our faith grows.

What are you needing faith for?

Faith that one day God will bring the right man into your life.

Faith that one day your arms will hold the baby your heart has dreamed of.

Faith that one day your entire family will worship together- at home and in God’s house.

Faith that one day you will turn the key and open the front door to a home you can call your own.

Your faith may be the size of onesie, a hymnal, or a set of brand new kitchen towels.

In my case, faith was the size of a tie.

A maroon and gold colored tie that I pulled down from the top shelf in my closet one beautiful day in October of 2003- the day after Brian asked my parents for my hand.

What size is your faith?

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value-life

A Letter From My Mother: The Value of Life

This past Friday, the annual March for Life was held in Washington, D. C. As I thought about those people  marching for the life of the unborn, I thought of a letter my mother had written to me years ago, before her passing.

This letter is a constant reminder to me of the value life has. On days when I feel that I am not making a difference, when I am folding laundry for the twelve millionth time, cooking another meal, picking up another toy, stepping on another Lego piece or perler bead, this letter reminds me of the value my life has.

This letter is completely in her words- it has obviously come to mean a lot to me.

Our mother had a way with words that I miss so much. The grammar may not be perfect, but the words are powerful. I have interjected some things in parenthesis.

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My Dearest Suzette:

Your Dad and I were married on May 19, 1973. He had said that he wanted to wait five years before we had children. After two years, I remember very clearly that I brought it to the Lord in prayer the fact that I wanted a baby. That is when I began to see God at work. He certainly does change things.

I remember that it was while your Dad and I were staying over Little Grandma’s house (our dad’s mother) that Dad said to me, “You know, Ana, I would like to have a baby.” Was I excited! This was an answer to prayer.

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In February of 1975, I found out that I was expecting. It was great news! During that time, there was about ten of us who were pregnant who were attending a church in Brooklyn called “Summit”. One night, I went to church and a preacher had a word of knowledge from God. He said that there were ten women in church that were expecting and that each would be going through something during her pregnancy. He wanted the ten expectant mothers to pass forward so that prayer could be made for them. So I went to the front of the church, but I was scared. I didn’t want anything to happen to my baby. Was I glad, though, that I was there in church that night because I surely needed a Word from the Lord.

Boy, was I going to be experiencing some trials! I later found out that I had toxemia. So I was put on a very strict diet, and even with this I was considered to be high risk. (Mother’s that experience toxemia sometimes experience convulsions or in more extreme cases lose their lives or their babies.) I had been admitted to the hospital altogether about five times during my pregnancy, but the Lord faithfully delivered me from all harm.

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One time, I broke out is a red rash on my legs so badly that I could not walk because of a terrible burning sensation in my legs. I was thus admitted to the hospital. While there, I overheard an employee saying that I might need to have an abortion. I did not and still do not believe in abortion. Also, I am sure this hospital employee did not know the God I served. I turned around and cried. I opened the Word of God and the Lord spoke to me and said, “There is no spot in thee.” It was then that I knew the spots I had did not affect you, my daughter, Suzette. I came out with a very healthy baby. I had a hard time during your delivery, but the Lord was with me.

The hospital staff sent me home, and we stayed with Little Grandma for a month. I am thankful to God for this because all of the family was such a blessing to us. Titi Alice, Grandpa, and Grandma were excited to have you there since you were the only grandchild around at that time (my cousins lived in Florida).

As soon as I arrived home, I had to return to the hospital. Part of my placenta had been left inside of me. So they put me in the maternity ward with other expecting mothers. I used to cry seeing other mothers attending to their newborns.

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Dad was a great sport, and your grandparents and aunt took care of you. Meanwhile, Dad was busy going to the store to get his little baby girl formula. Well, guess what he returned home with on one occasion? Your first raggedy doll.

Days passed, and I came back home, yet another problem arose. I began hemorrhaging. There were no doctors or anything else {that} seemed to help. Grandma Adelaida (Little Grandma) said that we needed to pray to God to help us in this trying situation. Praise God for the prayers of the righteous and the agreement of three people according to God’s Word! The bleeding stopped.

I again realized that there is nothing too hard for the God who knows all things and can bring us out of hard situations. We can truly know He is in control. He is the all-knowing God. Before we call, He answers. God knew whom He needed to send to pray for us. He knew that I needed a Word to see me through since I would be experiencing these problems during my pregnancy. The man of God who prayed that night was known truly to be a man of prayer.

As I look back on the experiences in my life, I realize that had I not gone through all of this, I would not have a testimony of the God who knows and can foresee all things. He can see us through when we face difficult times. So have faith in God. He is a very present help in time of need. He knows all things, and He has everything under control.

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So my dearest Suzette, I give you to God as my token of my thanks. If it hadn’t been for God, we wouldn’t have been blessed with YOU. Remember YOU were born to live. So continue to live the abundant life for Christ!

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Potty Training and Weight Loss

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” Luke 16:10a NLT

Don’t let the title of this post confuse you. I don’t have a new formula for weight loss that’s connected to the task of potty training  your child…

Yes, I know there are many weight loss fads out there… But, believe me, this is not one of them.

What I have found, however, is a connection between the two that I thought might be of some encouragement to you all.

Potty training was once described to me by another mom I met as “one of the hardest things” she’d ever done. And while it may seem like an exaggerated statement, it’s amazing how many things in life that we can view that way…

I know when it came to the idea of potty training, I could only imagine how difficult it would be.

And so……What did I do?

I. PUT. IT. OFF.

While it was encouraging to know that other moms agreed that boys often take longer to learn to go potty than girls, at a certain point I realized….

It was finally time to stop putting off this responsibility and actually begin intentionally working on it with my son.

“Stay home with your son for three days straight, work on it intensely, and it will be a done deal.”

It’s a strategy that’s worked for many moms and one I’ve heard from some of my amazing mom friends that I respect and admire.

Um…. But there was just one problem…

I’m not the kind of mom who “can” stay at home three days straight and work on it.

I like to go to the gym and run errands most days. It’s just not in my nature to hunker down three days back-to-back for potty training “boot camp”.

So, then… What’s a mom like me to do?

Hm…. I needed a different approach.

But what?

Although we may not always hear an audible voice of God telling us what to do, you want to know something… He does speak to our hearts if we’re listening.

And what I felt He was saying to me was this…

“Just begin working on it when you can. Work on it when you ARE home.” (Basically, “do the possible”.)

Hmmmm….. That I could do!

With this approach, I didn’t have to rearrange my life to mimic someone else’s success story in potty training. I could simply do what was possible for me!

And, you know what! That’s the case with many things in life as well.

Yes, at first glance many things may seem like they will be “the hardest things we’ve ever done.” The tasks ahead seem so BIG and daunting…

And yet, I believe all that the Lord wants from us is a willing heart and for us to simply do what IS POSSIBLE.

Around 2007, I weighed close to 160 pounds…. And oh… how I hate looking at pictures of myself from that time.

But you know, what? I didn’t stay that way.

Why not….?

Because I decided to take the small steps toward seeing change in my life…

I chose to do the possible.

And guess what… I was able to lose about 40 of those pounds by my wedding in 2010. (Maybe, at some point I’ll share a blog post with before and after photos, but not today…You’ll just have to keep reading the blog and stay tuned for that..)

Did the weight drop off suddenly?

It was a process. But little steps led to bigger ones.

I simply started by running around the house for exercise and eating healthier.

Over time, I added in more exericse, and then finally joined a gym where I was able to get some advice and a helpful plan from a trainer.

Yes, it took time and effort to drop the weight I wanted to lose, but little by little the pounds came off.

God gave me the will power and a path for success. Success fed on itself, and seeing my transformation and my dreams become a reality propelled me to continue on.

Oh… We all want the end results. We want our kids to be able to go potty independently, and we would all love to be the best version of ourselves that we know is possible.

But it all has to start somewhere.

No, you don’t have to copy someone else’s path to success…although sometimes, those paths can be of help.

You simply need to have the willingness to say “yes” to the vision God gives you and do what is possible for you day by day.

Will it take time? Yes.

Will it require more intention and dedication? Yes and yes.

But if the change you desire means that much to you… You will take the necessary steps- however small they may be- to achieve the goals and dreams you want to reach.

Yes, friends…. “The hardest things in life” really are possible to achieve.

And it’s following God’s leading, taking those small steps, and remaining faithful in the process that is the best place to begin.

year of purposeful woman

Year of the Purposeful Woman: Personal Devotions

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We’re ten days into the New Year. Our toes have touched the waters of 2017, and we are slowly adjusting to the temperature and feel of this brand new year. We’ve made our plans and written down our goals.  As I began to wade further into the year, I thought of sharing with you a kind of blueprint to make this the Year of the Purposeful Woman.

The foundation for any project is the most important part. Yes, decorating is fun, and designing is a blast, but without a firm foundation, any project will collapse.

The foundation of a Purposeful Woman is her daily time with the Lord.

My foundation is my devotional time. It’s my time to talk to God, to hear from Him through his Word, and to hear Him in the quietness of my heart.

year of purposeful woman

Growing up, we were taught to have our devotions every morning before we got up from bed. Our Bibles had places on our night stands that would allow this to actually happen for us. I remember going to kiss my mother in the morning and having her ask, “Have you had your devotions yet?”

Morning devotions were a natural part of our morning routine.

That taught me a great lesson. I needed to put my time with the Lord before everything else… before tackling the day, before that first cup of coffee, before putting my first load of laundry in the washer, or before my first bite of breakfast.

Now as a wife and mother, I start my day with a devotional time. For me, giving the first part of my day to Him means I am giving Him the best of who I am. There has been no time for me to get unnerved or put anything before Him.

I see the first part of my day as my first fruits.

Exodus 34:26a says, “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.”

year of purposeful woman

God’s Word brings peace. When I let myself get so busy doing other things I feel overwhelmed and stressed. When I am in the Word, reading it daily, and really being open to what God is trying to tell me, I am at perfect peace. And what a sweet place that is to be.

Are you unsure where to start?

We live in a wonderful time where there are options galore. I like to alternate among several options to keep my devotion time fresh.

Pick up the Bible and just read– No matter what you read or where you start, God’s Word will always have something for us to learn, glean from, or apply to our lives. If you’re still not sure, John is a great place to start.

Proverbs- There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. Try reading one chapter every day for a month. It is a great place to start since Proverbs is a book of wisdom. As you are reading, ask God to give you wisdom. He will. (James 1:5)

year of purposeful woman

Bible.com offers plans in every topic imaginable. At the end of 2016, I went through the plans and saved all of the plans dealing with “Joy“- my favorite being this one by C. S. Lewis.  Are you looking for something on marriage, parenting, singleness, faith, prayer, forgiveness, or worship? There is a plan for that.

Good Morning Girls– Are you looking for a devotional that you can do in the quiet of your home yet offers the accountability we often need to get into the habit of daily time with God? This is a devotional that is offered as a small, closed Facebook group. A daily application question is asked about the passage read that day, and each member of the group answers the question in a thread. The group I have been with for a few years now has reached the point where this is the first group of ladies we turn to when prayer is needed in personal situations. You just have to be willing to be real.

First 5 app– For a time, life got really busy. This became my go-to devotional. Because may of us keep our phones right by our bed, grabbing it in the morning, opening this app and giving God the first 5 minutes of our day, can make all the difference.

Devotional books– There are a whole host of devotional books on the market. Although this was not written to be a devotional, Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman was one book that really drew me into a quiet place in my heart and brought me to the feet of Jesus many times.

One thing I know for a fact, no matter which method you choose, you will not regret starting your day with the Lord.

Take this month to work on building a personal devotion time into your routine. It’s the first step towards being a Purposeful Woman.

To read more in this series:

year of purpose

Living wiith Sincerity

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 (KJV)

A W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G life is the kind of life I believe the Lord wants us to live.

“What does that even mean?” you ask.

Simply this. “What you see is what you get.”

So, often it can be easy to show one face in public and another at home. One face in front of others and then another when we walk away.

We all want to look good… Don’t get me wrong. Putting one’s best foot forward is always a good thing.

In fact, we should all strive for that.

The only problem is… Sometimes, I think we feel that once we are no longer in the presence of others, we have the freedom to be different from how we just represented ourselves to be.

Of course there are always going to be people we just simply don’t mesh with and situations where it takes God’s grace to wear a smile when inside we feel just the opposite.

And yet, I believe the Lord is calling us to live above that… To be a W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G kind of person.

As I look back, I remember a day when I knew I was going to be having someone over our home that I really struggled internally with. In times like these, the tendency is to build up all kinds of scenarios of what might happen during your time together. Or you find yourself focusing on all of the things that you don’t like in the other person. (Can I be real for a minute?)

But you know what….  I remember that on this one particular day, before the guest arrived, God spoke a verse into my heart. I absolutely know without a doubt it was from God because it came to my mind in a translated version of the Bible I don’t normally used in my personal Bible time.

The verse that came to mind was from Romans 12:9, and it said, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”

(As I said before, believe me, it had to be the Holy Spirit speaking that into my heart because I don’t usually use the NASB (New American Standard Bible) version, which is where the verse is translated that way.)

Another version, the New International Version (NIV) translates the same verse as “Love must be sincere.” (NIV)

And that’s what W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G living is… Sincerity. Genuineness.

As followers of Jesus, God wants our lives to be true reflections of Him, reflecting his heart and His attitudes towards others in our interactions with them…not only when we are in their presence, but also when we walk away.

No…He doesn’t expect us to put on a face that we wouldn’t normally wear. But what He does want is to so transform our hearts and lives so that who He is and His kinds of responses are what supernaturally flows out of us by His power.

How is this possible? You ask.

Well, if you reflect on the verses shared at the beginning of this post, it’s vital that as Christians we live in the Light.

While it’s true that others may only be able to see one side when we are in their presence, God wants our lives to be the same everywhere we go.

Everywhere we go our lives are open books.

And while we may be able to hide some things from others…

Nothing is hidden from our Heavenly Father.

And anything we do want to hide must be brought out into the open for God to clean away and change.

Because, you know what…. Those hidden things… At some point, they’ll come out anyway. (Luke 8:17) And on top of that, it is those hidden things that bring us the most bondage.

And God has called us to Freedom.

Am I still a work in progress in living a W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G life? You bet I am.

But the more I allow the Lord to work in my heart, and realize the freedom living in the Light brings, the more joy I will experience and the more I will live the kind of sincere and genuine life Jesus has called me to….

…The kind of life that pleases God and is a genuine blessing to others.

Make 2017 a Year of No Regrets

Regret is a joy thief that hijacks your present and also your future.

It keeps you ever-grieving over the past and incapable of moving forward into a brighter tomorrow.

Rather than making the progress you’d like to see, regret keeps you circling the same mountain again and again…wishing for change but not seeing much at all.

And instead of seeing “failures” to meet your own expectations as mere “potholes” along the journey, you set up camp within them, defining yourself by your setbacks.

We all have expectations for ourselves.

For some, it’s living a healthier lifestyle and getting in shape…. For others, it’s following a better daily routine and becoming more organized… And for others, it’s giving more attention to the people and things that matter most…. The list could go on and on…

We all have goals and areas we want to work on….

And these are all good things.

But, hey! “No biggie” on meeting these goals…

The New Year is approaching, and our New Years’ resolutions will be the cure to everything we want to see different in our lives, right?

Everything will be better on January 1st… when the “magical” refresh button is pushed and change finally becomes possible.

Um….The only thing is…

Let’s be honest…

What typically happens to us when…

…After two weeks into the New Year of dieting, we cave into eating that delicious looking gourmet donut that was calling our name in the break room?

Or…

…We procrastinate too long on a project we promised ourselves we’d finish right away?

Or…

…We miss an opportunity to express love to our family or friends because we allowed ourselves to become distracted with things that were less important?

Then what?

I’ll tell you, because I know…

We beat ourselves up and define ourselves by our failures.

“I’m so undisciplined,” we tell ourselves.

“I just can’t get my act together,” we sigh.

If you’re anything like I know I’ve been, we subconsciously label ourselves based on our failures to meet our own expectations…

And so the cycle continues….

Because… “As a man” (or woman) “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV)

In our minds we have labeled ourselves based on our inabilities to fulfill the expectations we have of ourselves, and what’s even worse is that when we do see someone else who meets the expectations we have for ourselves, we rank ourselves lower, causing us to lose even more joy and perpetuating the cycle of defeat.

If this sounds familiar at all to you…I have some refreshing news for you.

There is hope.

And it doesn’t have to wait until January 1st to be experienced….

Because…. “His mercies are new every morning”… (Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV)

No, the Lord doesn’t want us to continue defining ourselves by our failures to meet our expectations.

He so lovingly and faithfully offers us a clean slate every day…if we choose to accept it. 

We can start each day to move forward little by little with His help and strength.

And thankfully, this doesn’t have to wait for the New Year… (Although I know we often enjoy the “newness” of a completely brand new calendar where the details of life have yet to be written.)

But, here begs the question… Will there be days in this New Year of 2017, where I will feel displeased with the decisions that I’ve made? When I eat the slice of cake and bowl of ice cream that I “promised” myself I wouldn’t or when I fail to keep the daily routine I’ve made for myself?

Yes, I’m sure there may be days like this…although I do aspire to be more disciplined in my choices.

And yet, while I continue to hold high expectations for myself, something I feel the Lord speaking into my heart as this year comes to an end is this…

When you fail to meet your own expectations, rather than camping out in regret, and allowing it to undue your day… keep moving forward.

Don’t stay there. Don’t dwell on the short coming. Press on.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to live in the joy and freedom His Son came to abundantly give us (John 10:10), and we have His mercy, grace, and love to rest and run to at every moment. (Hebrews 4:16)

Neither my successes nor my failures are what defines who I am.

I belong to God, and I am His forever. 

He chose me. He loves me. And He has great purposes for my life. (1 Peter 2:9 & John 3:16)

It was the Lord that started the good work in me, and He promises to be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6) No, I won’t stay where I am forever. My life is always forward moving, because I have Him in it.

It is Him working in my life that causes me to “will and to do according to His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

So, as I yield myself to Him and follow His leading, I know I will arrive at my desired destination.

And as for regret….?

That’s something I don’t want to carry into the New Year. Instead, I want to carry God’s mercy and grace everywhere I go, running to Him when I fail and allowing Him to pick me back up again so that I  can once again stand and move forward into all that He has planned and purposed for my life.

“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16 NASB)

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 KJV)

the best christmas pageant ever

When You Get into a Christmas Rut

Have you thought about the Christmas Story?

I mean really thought about it.

When you have grown up going to church your whole life, hearing the Christmas account, and setting up your family’s Nativity scene, it can be so easy to glaze over the beauty, reality, and people involved in the account.

If you have found yourself in a Christmas rut and the Christmas account no longer moves your soul to awe, wonder or tears, I have found the story for you.

the best Christmas pageant ever

In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, the most unlikely children help a church remember the beauty of the Christmas account.

The Herdman’s are possibly the worst children ever. Through a series of hilarious events, they become part of the church’s Christmas pageant. As these children are hearing the Christmas account for the first time, they ask questions. Good questions. Questions that make those of us who have known the account our whole lives actually think about the characters we have become so familiar with.

But it isn’t until the actual pageant that the true beauty of the story comes out. This story has a way of revealing the prideful, self-righteous attitudes in our own hearts and the beauty of a sincere heart hearing of Christ for the first time and coming to him with the only thing it has to offer. It reminds us that maybe, just maybe, the angel’s announcement of “Unto you a Child is born” was announced with joy and thrill.

the best Christmas pageant ever

I had a hard time reading the last two pages of the book as my voice cracked at the end of each sentence, and my son came to “console” me as I read the last line.

The tears were not from sadness… well maybe they were.

Maybe the tears came because I have gotten so comfortable with the Christmas account in Luke chapter 2 that I have forgotten to read it with the awe and wonder it deserves. Maybe they came because children have a way of seeing things more clearly than adults do, and the children in this story helped me see the Christmas account again for the first time.

This book took us two days to read through, but we could have easily finished it in one day. It’s a small book with seven chapters and is completely entertaining (if you are a Classical Conversations family, like we are, your children will have to read it in the Challenge years, so it’s a good story to get familiar with now). We laughed through chapters one through six, and then saw the beauty of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Wise Men, and the angels in chapter seven.

After reading through the book, we watched the movie on Youtube (I’m a firm believer of reading the book first and then watching the movie). The movie follows the book very closely with very little creative license taken. (NOTE: In the movie one child says, “They talk about sexy things,” which isn’t true, in her efforts to get the Herdman children kicked out of the pageant because one of them got the part she wanted.)

The best Christmas pageant ever

This book is also available in a condensed version as a picture book for younger children and has the same effect in reminding us of the awe and wonder of the Christmas account.

If you find yourself getting into a rut, if you can’t see the wonder and awe of Jesus coming as a baby to the world because of all of the “grown up” stuff that gets in our way, then maybe you need to take a small break in the busyness of the season and look at Christmas from the perspective of a child.

when you get into a Christmas rut

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