When Your Kids See Your Struggle

As parents, we often only want our kids to see our “best” side. The part of us that is calm, cool, and collected all the time. The part of us that is fun, with an ocean of patience, and speaks only life and encouragement to those around us. This is a good thing to want our kids to see in us. That means you love your children and want only the best for them!

But what happens when they see something other than your best? 

What happens when we lose our patience, or we are heartbroken and they witness our tears? 

Something that I’ve learned as a mom of toddlers is that I am going to be undone more often that I’d like to admit, and my kids are going to get a front row seat. Whether that is from losing my patience or mourning over the consequences of sin in the world.

And I can see that as failure or as a chance to continue doing the one thing God has entrusted me to do with those sweet little image bearers of God: keep pointing them to Jesus.

When my spirit is weaker than my flesh and I give into temptation, handing over control to my emotions or selfishness, I have the hard, holy, privilege of asking my kids for their forgiveness. I get to CHOOSE to say yes I am your mom, but I am not the goal: HE is the goal. He is the prize. I am your mom and I love you more than the stars in the sky, but I will mess up. Because I need Jesus just as much as you do. And even as much as I love you and want the best for you, God’s love for you is greater still.

When Your Kids See Your StruggleWhen tragedies are on display right and left, and the rubble of death is almost too much to take, I have the prime opportunity to show them how I run to God, not away from Him with my questions. When we pray at the end of the day and our family or community is mourning the loss of a friend here on earth, I get to show them how I tell God in prayers that I know He is still good even when we don’t understand, and ask Him to show us He is near.

If you have someone in your life that God has entrusted to you–maybe it’s a child, a friend, a student–you too have the immense privilege to be a flashing light, using every moment, every weakness, and hurt and every opportunity to keep pointing those around you to Jesus. This is your ONE GOAL. By offering these moments as road lights for others, we get the chance to say with our lives that we are desperate for Jesus. 

When Your Kids See Your StruggleEven after all these years.

We still need Him too. 

Paul writes something astoundingly beautiful regarding this in 1 Corinthians 1:11, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” THIS IS OUR GOALMay our lives never look like anything but Jesus, even when we do fail or grieve or struggle.

Yes, follow us as we follow Him. When we fail, watch how we run to Him. When we hurt, watch how we run to Him. When we celebrate, watch how He is the first we run to in praise. Our eyes are fixed on no other. Watch us. Then join us.

How do you point to Jesus with your life? Who may be watching you be anything but your best? Let’s keep this conversation going in the comment section, share with us how you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus throughout your day! 

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Face to Face

It is no secret that people are looking down more than ever. It is interesting that while looking down at say, their phones, they have access to every piece of the world via the internet. But while looking down at a virtual world, we forfeit the privilege of seeing the world in person. Face to sky. Face to sun. Face to mountain. Face to ocean. Face to crowd. Face to face. 

Quick poll/personal inventory: How many times did you intentionally look up today? How many of you have felt lonelier/discouraged/less connected to others the more you are trying to connect on social media?

It’s ok… take a few minutes to do some personal reflection. I’ll wait. This could be big for us–it’s totally worth the lack of comfort.

About a year ago, I realized that the more time I spent online (specifically on social media venues), had a direct correlation with how tired and groggy I felt throughout the day. It wasn’t like I was just wasting time online (lets be real–I have toddlers at home so I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to!) although I absolutely have been sucked into the blackhole of Instagram on more than a few occasions! However, the reality is my work is largely based online and social media is a huge piece of that. But I was realizing that investing so much energy in that online space left me with significantly less energy to ACTIVELY engage in the actual world around me the way God had created me to. 

Now before I go on I want to say how incredibly thankful I am for the progress of technology and advancement. You guys- God is the most creative being EVER. He is the source of creativity and inspiration, and uses absolutely everything for His good. I have seen this abundantly with sharing the Gospel online. Bible studies, testimonies, news on other believers around the world and how to PRAY for them and ways to serve and give–that was absolutely not a mistake or an accident or coincidence. God intentionally put that burden in the hearts of men and women He created, to do that very thing so the name of Jesus could literally be more accessible to the ends of the earth.

That being said, I can no longer neglect the tension we are currently experiencing where online or even text-based acquaintances/friendships are often replacing intentional community Jesus was so passionate about. I recently found myself reading the short letters from John in 1, 2, and 3 John. As a writer, I often am captivated by words. I write them to my kids on their birthdays, I write them to Jesus in my prayer journal, and I write things that God lays on my heart to share online. As a millennial follower of Jesus, these words I am about to share with you from John challenged me so deeply and stirred my spirit in such a way that I can’t say that I’ll ever be the same. And friends, while growth is painful and awkward, there is not one moment that is not worth it. So I am praying you find yourself drawn in by His loving kindness and nudged to a new, life changing perspective as well.

At the end of 2 John in verse 12, as a closing to his letter, John writes these words:  

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

Likewise, at the end of 3 John in verses 13-15 we read a similar sentiment:

“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink.  I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.”

You can almost hear the urgency in his voice. His longing to be with his people, in their presence. Face to face. It’s like he knows that there is just too much that he might miss out on by not doing life in person. Together.

friendship

FACE TO FACE. 

When I read those words, I was immediately inspired by the authentic friendship John had with these people in the early church. He knew the times were turbulent. He knew the struggles his friends (and himself) were facing were immense and their grief so deep and real that they could hardly catch their breath before the next blow. The urgency we hear in his voice comes from in importance of what he had to tell them. Their days were numbered. Their conversations were sacred. Their friendship holy.

John knew that what he had to tell them was way to important to tell them any other way than face to face. Here’s another quick poll for personal  reflection: How many of our conversations are deeper than the shallowness of our flesh? How many conversations do we see as sacred? How many of our moments face to face with others are are accounted for as worth the time? How many of our conversations are making an eternal difference?

John not only wanted to visit these people face to face so he could tell them something sacred, but because he knew the unspeakable JOY that comes with authentic friendship. John knew that our joy would never, could never be complete without community. I have found this to be so true in my own life. I have found the longer I go without intentionally meeting face to face with other believers, the easier it is for me to make excuses to stay under my rock of comfort + selfishness (especially with my time). And the longer I go without community, whether that is coffee with a friend, a bible study group, or worship with my church family, the more negative I become without even knowing it.

I’ve seen that I become comfortable in my selfish worldview that I established within the walls of my home or heart, because I never invited anyone else in. When we sacrifice real community for anything other than God intended it, we are selling ourselves short on the JOY God has for us. Every time it has been hard to get out of the house, out of my comfort zone, etc. it has been 100% WORTH it in more ways than I can count. Trust me. Our joy will NEVER be complete without community.

These are the things we can no longer ignore. We are so good at being busy we are simultaneously LAZY at the same time.  And then we wonder why we feel like something is missing? Like the joy in our daily life has just up and left? No, it hasn’t left. We just haven’t SHOWED UP. We are missing the ABUNDANCE of life we were made to enjoy (John 10:10) because we won’t go where the FACES are.

One more thing before we go. John says “GREET THE FRIENDS BY NAME.” Why would he say that? MAYBE BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT. And I am asguilty as anyone here. I am the WORST at remembering names. But there is no excuse for not treating an image bearer of God as such. If you take one thing from this (long) post let it be this challenge:

Let someone know you are there, that you see them. And by see them, I mean you see their face with your actual face. Not just a text. Tell someone you know they are there. They are worth looking up for because Jesus said they were worth dying for. 

Leave a comment if you are up for the challenge, and share your experience with us! I am praying for you guys today and look forward to hearing from you! I can’t wait to hear how God moves through those willing to let Him use them. And don’t forget. Look UP. That’s where the faces are.

Look UP

 

 

The Unchanging God We Need

I am a wife. I am a mother. I am happy. I am tired. (Amen?!) I am all of these things now, but I have not always been these things, and I will not always be all of these things. Sometimes, I work out and decide to eat more salads. Then, sometimes I get home from said gym and eat cookie dough. I am never the same it seems, and apparently I really like change. But there is a very real part of my being that desires consistency, something constant. After following Jesus for several years, I know now that this is because I was made by a God that never changes.

Unchanging God

This is a huge concept for me to grasp, and maybe it is for you too. No matter what is going on in the world, no matter how awesome we have been or how much we have messed up, God remains constant in His character. One of my most favorite things to meditate on is that God loves me just as much on my very best day as He does on my very worst day.

In Exodus 3:14, God describes Himself as “I AM.” This Scripture has always intrigued me and until recently, I don’t know that I was able to really grasp the weight that this specific verse carries. In a sermon,  C. Kingsley, M.A. describes it this way:

“Everybody and everything else in the world becomes: but God is. We are all becoming something from our birth to our death — changing continually and becoming something different from what we were a minute before; first of all we were created and made, and so became men; and since that we have been every moment changing, becoming older, becoming wiser, or alas! foolisher; becoming stronger or weaker; becoming better or worse. Even our bodies are changing and becoming different day by day. But God never changes or becomes anything different from what He is now. What He is, that He was, and ever will be.”*

God is the only one that can claim to be “I AM” because He is the only one that will ever just BE. He is Alpha and Omega, the Begging and the End (Revelation 22:13). He is THE way, truth and the life (John 14:6). Apart from Him there is no other (Isaiah 45:6).

God alone is existential, eternal, and unchangeable. It is a powerful thing to realize that this God, this all knowing, all being, never changing God is not swayed by the things of man or enemies of Christ. And not only that He has this steadfast nature, but that He cares for us. Despite all the things He made, He chooses to love us the most. And chose to allow us alone, sinful and flawed as we are, to bear His image (Genesis 1:27). This is a privilege, friend. I encourage you to boldly walk in the truth that the Great I AM will never change in His love for you today.

Unchanging God

How does knowing that God could not love you any more or any less than He does right this second make you feel? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section!

* http://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/kingsley/god_the_great_i_am.htm

When God Calls Us and We Aren’t Ready

Living in the adrenaline rush of the Holy Spirit seems to be a trend in my life lately. Don’t get me wrong, this is absolutely wonderful and something I have prayed for years about. I have always wanted to live a life that was so dependent on the Spirit that it seemed He never stopped moving in my life. This was a bold prayer, and I knew it every time I prayed it. I prayed for this because I wanted my faith to abound from experiencing Him so personally there would never be a doubt in my mind that God is real, God is here, and God is good. Well friends, for over the last year He has very clearly made it known to me that He in fact heard my prayers. He has pushed me out of my comfort zone, in ways that felt more like I was being pushed off a cliff. He has challenged what I believe at my core to shake away anything that might hinder me from experiencing and understanding the fullness of the Gospel, stripping away any pride or legalism hiding in my heart. He has asked things of me and my family that make the story of Peter being called out to walk on water extremely relatable. Things that make you ask at the end of the day more often than not, “What on earth just happened, is happening, or could happen?

Calling

Daily life has become an adventure, and I love it. However, it has also revealed significant weaknesses in me that make all of these things and all of this personal and spiritual growth very hard. I am finding that my tendency to feel overwhelmed is a major factor that distracts me from keeping my eyes on what Jesus is asking me to do, and I begin to sink in the water I have been called out upon. When I think of all the things God is doing in my life and asking of me my first thought is, “YES! Let’s do this!” My second thought immediately following is, “Wait, what? Does He know who He is talking to? He talks to a lot of people 24/7, maybe he just thought he was talking to someone who is more qualified. Someone who doesn’t have two tiny humans to teach how to be people. Someone who is much more intelligent. Someone who is older and has the wisdom that comes with years of life and experiences.” This sounds silly as I write this, but this is the process my mind goes through almost every time He begins to move in my heart or in my life. 

In the midst of a crazy day just a few weeks ago, God revealed something wonderful and amazing, yet potentially challenging (again) for our family. You see, our family is in vocational ministry and this often leads to big changes in our lives frequently. These challenges can be personal such as struggles to balance family life with work or the things we feel we are being called to do. It could also be spiritual, such as conviction to be more intentional about our own private relationships with Christ, or something else entirely that has more to do with how God is growing and moving our church. I was reading my Bible and came across Romans 9:17. “For this very purpose I have RAISED YOU UP that  I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (emphasis mine)

In that one single moment, it was as if God reached down and chiseled again on my heart, molding it to look a little more like His (this usually happens daily, and is mostly painful, in all honesty). I was reminded that my very weaknesses are exactly why God has asked this of me. We are exactly where God has placed us, and he longs to show up and do big things because honestly, people are going to know it just had to be God because of the vessels he chooses to use as instruments (2 Timothy 2:21).

Calling

I love the instance in the book of Acts when God tells one of His followers that Paul was one of His chosen instruments (Acts 9:15), even though literally a day or two before he was the one murdering believers, simply because they claimed to know Jesus. This is the God we serve. This is His plan for us. To use us despite our sinful flesh and unfaithful hearts, so that HIS NAME might be proclaimed in all the earth. That people may know Him. Let’s be those broken vessels for His glory.

For Those of Us Who Think It’s Too Late

Life is hard. And sometimes, it is because we make it that way. Other times it is just the road we have been asked to walk in faith to refine us and bring us closer to Him. But there times in our life when we look around and wonder how we got to this place of brokenness, all the while silently answering our own question in our hearts.

All day long we are given the chance to either be for Jesus or against Jesus. Though the enemy deceives many into believing there is middle ground, there is no such place. When we choose to walk away from the life of holiness God has called us to, there will be inevitable pain to follow because a life apart from God is a life void of life. I have met countless individuals who have stories of complete tragedy because of their choice to walk in the flesh rather than the spirit (see Galatians 5:16-17). They may have lost their job, marriage, or family due  to the condition of their heart when they refused an intimate relationship with Christ. I also know people, maybe even more, that fall into the category of believers who have left their first love and chose friendship with the world instead of the Savior (Revelation 2:4). Regardless, in each of these circumstances, these individuals have come to the conclusion at some point that it was too late for them. They feel they have wandered too far to either find Jesus or to be welcomed back by Him.

Reconciled

Friends, I am here to say to you that the voice that says you have gone too far to be redeemed by Christ belongs to Satan. Whether you are standing firm in the faith or are waging a war on faith, it is clear that this specific lie is one of the enemy’s biggest weapons. At some point in our lives, if we are honest, we all will have to confront this deception because of our sin nature and our ongoing struggle with it. But when Satan comes at us with deceit we have the Sword of Truth to go take with us into battle, God never intended for us to fight this alone. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 tells us,

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Reconciled

Beloved brothers and sisters, Jesus died on the cross for us so that it would never be too late for us. He sacrificed Himself so that we could never be too far. What He accomplished on the cross that day more than 2000 years ago made it so that no matter what sin we find ourselves wrapped in or how distant our heart feels from Him, if we only ask for forgiveness and repent in our hearts, He is there. He is there waiting to give grace, waiting to restore and redeem . The cross means that He believes it is not too late for me. And I believe that someone out there needs to hear this today: it’s not too late for you either. You are not too far.

A Lesson From My First Uber Ride

This past weekend, I took an Uber for the first time to a conference in a large city. I am from a small town, so that isn’t common around my area, and I was so excited for this ‘big city’ experience (and that I wouldn’t spend my life savings on a taxi!). What I was unprepared for, however, was the conversation that took place with our driver. I am always praying for opportunities to share the love and hope of Jesus, but as my friend began a conversation with our driver, I realized that this was a conversation God was going to use to speak to me, as well as one that would minister to our new friend.

Lessons from Uber

Our driver was from a distant country, one broken and devastated by a corrupt government. He pursued the opportunity to make his new home here in America to flee the brutal conditions of his homeland. My friend (who is one of the most insightful people I have ever met) began to ask him questions about his perspective, being that he had seen such different extreme ways of life. She was quiet for a moment and then asked him, “If you had an opportunity to speak something the people of the United States, what would you say?” He shook his head silently, and then after a long pause, he answered. “Where I am from, people have nothing. But still, there is great joy because they have one another. In my time here, I have realized that the opportunity for prosperity is great because if you work hard, you can have a place to live and food. But people are so busy that they have no time for one another. There is always more to be done that is given the priority.”

It was as if God whispered straight to my heart. I too, even as a young mom, have encountered the temptation always to have something to do. Something to prepare for. Some deadline to meet. But making time to listen to someone? That’s not always made the list. Giving up those few precious moments in the day that I have to rest or to simply be quiet to pick up the phone instead, to actually CALL someone to ask how they are really doing is not the norm, but the exception. And friends, I LOVE Jesus. I’ve made loving Him my whole life. I love serving others. I love missions and talking with people at church. And yet I sometimes find myself struggling with this. My private life is often guarded by walls built by selfishness. Our entire family serves in ministry, so it is easy to fall into the temptation to “take time for yourself.” And to a degree, there is nothing wrong with that, and it is even healthy to retreat to a time of solitude and prayer for the purpose of restoration. Where we are misled, however, is that if we find ourselves in places where are giving of ourselves often, we are led to believe there is a limit on what can be poured out. There are things to do, goals to achieve, and appearances to be kept.

Lessons from Uber

One of the things that has always fascinated me about Jesus is that everything He did was strategically on task to His mission. As He gained popularity, He was always readily available to be the Good Shepherd, the Teacher, the Healer. When He began to face persecution, even leading up to His sacrifice on the cross, He was obedient to make time for the things that mattered, pouring out Himself completely for us, even before the Cross, and every moment since.

Jesus taught us by word and example that if we are to really follow Him and believe what He says, not a moment of our lives are to be wasted. He promises that when we lay down our lives and our own plans for the future, He gives us life abundant. Likewise, if we choose to live every moment for Christ, even though that means dying daily to our own desires, He tells us that we will never experience the sting of death itself because we will be living in the resurrecting, refining power of the Cross.

I recently read an excerpt by Oswald Chambers that discussed the ‘outpouring’ of someone that follows Jesus. In his book, My Utmost for His Highest he writes this:

“ Are you ready to be poured out as an offering? It is an act of your will, not your emotions. Tell God you are ready to be offered as a sacrifice for Him. Then accept the consequences as they come, without any complaints, in spite of what God may send your way.”

If we follow Jesus and we truly believe what He says, the decisions we make every day will reflect our choice to live for ourselves or die to ourselves. Dying to ourselves will look a lot like making sacrifices like taking a few more moments before rushing out the door to tell our kids that we are proud of them and who God made them to be. It might look a little like asking how we can pray for the cashier at the store even though we have a billion things to get to. It may take the shape of carving out time in our schedule to meet with someone face to face, someone that we know has been struggling and is longing for a listening ear and an encouraging word.

If we really believe what Jesus says, we are choosing to live with an eternal perspective, rather than day to day survival. We make the choice to invest in what really matters, and trust that God will provide everything we need when we tell Him we are ready to be poured out. It means saying that people and these opportunities we have to tangibly love around us are not mere coincidences in our lives, but divine appointments that will matter for eternity.

Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done, but thanks be to God that He is more than willing—expectant, even, to give us the ability to live out what He has called us to. Sending prayers of grace and peace to you as we work out what it really means to believe what Jesus says and LIVE IT.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

This post was originally submitted by Rachel for publishing on EveryDay Natalie