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  • Receiving Jesus this Christmas

    Have you ever wondered…why was Mary the one chosen to carry the Messiah? Out of thousands of virgins over the course of hundreds of years God handpicked Mary to carry His Son, calling her “highly favored” (Luke 1:28). Why her? I believe we find our answer in “Mary’s Song” (Luke 1:46-55) where she expresses her heart in the midst of pregnancy and the unknown of her future. She sings, “My soul glorifies the LORD and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant…He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” (Luke 1:46-48, 52) Even as she received the privilege of carrying God's Son (which did not make her life easier but rather far more difficult and complicated), Mary was humble. Her dependence on God prepared her to receive her assignment from Him. She called herself “the Lord’s servant” and submitted herself to God's plan: “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38). Mary thought of herself as lowly and God as holy, and this positioned Mary perfectly to receive what God wanted to give her. Over the next four weeks, we’ll dive into Mary’s story - learning from her dependence on God and how she received from Him as she entered into motherhood. What about you - are you ready to receive this Christmas? I often find it hard to receive as a mom. I find it easy to take care of everyone's needs, a subtle sense of self-sufficiency underlying my productivity. I find it easy to ramble my list of requests to God, certain I know what’s best for myself and my children. I find it easy to serve and host and give - but to pause and be still, giving my attention to Jesus when there is so much to do? That feels much more difficult, sometimes even impossible. My pride, my desire for independence, my insatiable craving for “me time” - they all leave me resisting time with Jesus and refusing to receive what God wants to give me, what I really need: His joy, His peace, more of Him. This Advent season, I’m asking God to humble me so that I might be prepared to receive Him and all that He wants to give me. I believe that in our bending low and depending and surrendering this Christmas, we will be positioned to receive from God - and I trust that He will give us more than we could ever ask for or imagine. Ask yourself: What is your heart posture as we enter the Advent season? Are you walking in self-sufficiency or trusting that Jesus is sufficient for you? What are you depending on Jesus for in your current season of motherhood? Action step: Take five minutes to sit and be with Jesus today. Ask Him to humble and prepare your heart to receive Him this Christmas.

  • A Beaming Bride

    We are celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary TODAY! What a gift. And around this time of year, I always get nostalgic about our wedding day (and I force Blake to watch our wedding day video with me while I cry). And when I remember our wedding day and the feeling of being a bride, I am reminded that we as believers are the Bride of Christ. This is what Jesus calls us: His Church, His Bride. A bride is cherished, loved, honored, redeemed. She is protected, secure, provided for. She is beautiful, cherished, celebrated, and beaming. She has great hope for the future, dreams for the life that lays ahead. Her eyes are full of light, and she illuminates every room she enters. She lives loved; she knows her value and worth: the Groom desires her deeply and gives himself for her, to her. She is not ashamed, she is not condemned, she does not live in fear. "She is clothed with strength and dignity, she can laugh at the days to come" (Proverbs 31:25). She is radiant. We so often forget our identity in Christ; the way He sees us. We must sit in the presence of Jesus to reclaim our identity as the Bride of Christ. We must seek Him and listen to Him and ask to be reminded of who we are - for our own sake and the sake of our children. I know that I would mother differently if I could grasp His love for me more fully. In the past month I've started praying Ephesians 3 over my children nightly: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 6:17-19). I'm reminded today that I need to pray this for myself too: that I need His power in order to know His love; to understand it and grasp it and experience it and live into it. How we need this love that changes everything to transform our hearts and heal us and bless us so that we may beam like the Bride that we are; so that we may put this Love on display to our children. This prayer in Ephesians 3 ends this way: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21). May He revive us today and remind us how it feels to be a Bride. And as we claim our true identity in Him, may He do immeasurably more in and through us than all we could ever ask or imagine.

  • The Manner Matters

    "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Philippians 1:27 Millions of mothers have endured the trials and hardships that accompany child bearing and rearing. The sleeplessness, the physical pain and suffering, the whining, tantrums and transitions. The sustaining and caring for, and the letting go as they grow. "You just do it," they say - and somehow, we do. We push through, we endure, we make it to the other side of hard seasons. But for us as followers of Jesus, how can we set ourselves apart from the world? How will others see Him through our mothering? We will not be set apart IF we endure through motherhood, but rather by HOW we do so. This is an encouraging thought as we consider the mundane responsibilities of motherhood as well as the more trying seasons - it's not just about what we are doing (whether it be cleaning, changing a diaper, nursing, or something altogether different), but the manner in which we are doing it - the manner matters. Will we walk out motherhood in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ? This is what makes all the difference. We must consider: Our facial expressions as we look at our children and our chores. Our demeanor - is it one of anxiety or peace? Contentment or grumbling? Our tone as we speak to our children and spouses. The manner by which we go about our days - Are we purposeful and patient? Or are we hurried? Lazy? We can spread the aroma of Christ through our intentionality as we care for neighboring mamas and friends. We can shine the light of Jesus as we open our homes in hospitality and in how we present ourselves with authenticity, without trying to project a certain image. Of course, we cannot do any of this in our own strength. We must depend on Jesus daily to help us mother in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We must ask the Holy Spirit for His power, wisdom and grace; we must pray and plead that the fruit of the Spirit would abound through our mothering. May we emulate the Proverbs 31 woman as we go about our lives and motherhood: "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness...Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" (Proverbs 31:25-27, 30). May the world notice this army of mothers rising up - brightening the world in the name of Jesus, raising up the next generation of Jesus-followers. In the mundane and the monotonous (as well as in the miraculous) we are bearing His Name. May the manner in which we mother beam bright, shining a spotlight on Jesus that others (including our children) might see His beauty and goodness.

  • Is This Worthy of My Worry?

    Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 It feels as though worry is wired into us, especially as mothers. We have good intentions but, I’ll speak for myself - my thoughts seem to spiral pretty quickly. What starts as a single, minor worry spins into a whole cascade of questions, anxieties, unknowns, and fears. I have started to ask myself a question whenever my thoughts start to wander into the “what ifs” and anxiety begins rising in my chest: “Is this worthy of my worry?” The answer is usually (if not always) “no.” Is it worthy of a prayer? Probably. But worry? Anxiety? Fixation? No. Jesus told us many times: “Do not worry about your life…” “Do not be afraid!” And what is worry but unrealized fear swirling in circles, the what ifs reverberating through the myelin in our minds? Could it actually be disobedient to worry? To consider all of the possible outcomes as if God is not in control, as if He is unaware of my circumstances? If we are to escape this debilitating cycle, our worry must give way to worship. We must raise our hands in praise, releasing our worries and prying our fingers from the sense of control we so desperately cling to. We must “be transformed by the renewing of our minds,” allowing the Scriptures and the Spirit to inform and direct our thoughts rather than our worries (Romans 12:2). We must cultivate our thought lives carefully, fighting to think on what is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy” (Philippians 6:8). We must channel our worries into prayers - “present[ing] [our] requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6). May our tendency to worry drive us to our knees before the throne of grace - that we might cover every part of our lives and our children’s lives with prayer. That we might repent of our worry-filled habits and instead “seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness” - because He is faithful to provide everything we need as we do so (Matthew 6:33). Your worries are not worthy of taking up your time, thought space, and attention - but He is always worthy of your worship. May our worries give way to worship that we might experience greater joy and peace in Jesus - the only One who sustains and satisfies.

  • Come To Me...

    “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 Jesus knows the depths of our weariness and the burdens we are carrying as moms. He knows the state of our hearts, the amount of sleep debt we have been accumulating, the size of the latest pile of laundry, and the difficulties of discipling our children. And He offers us rest - but first, we must come to Him. We must come to Him sin-stained and broken, snot on our shirts and bags under our eyes. We must come to Him despite the hustle and chaos, the noise that never seems to end. We must come to Him in the middle of the night or whenever our schedule allows - even if we have only moments (or seconds) to meet with Him. In Psalm 91, the psalmist writes, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalm 91:1). When we dwell in Jesus - making Him our hiding place and refuge instead of running to distractions or indulgences - He will give us the rest that we so desperately need. This rest may not be what we imagine or hope for - it might not include a "quiet time" or a lack of interruption. It might not involve a full night of sleep, at least for a season. Jesus gives us rest in the midst of motherhood, in the messiness and mundane. He gives us rest in our reality. We always have a choice and an opportunity to come to Jesus - to abide, to reside, to dwell, and to remain in Him - no matter what is going on around us. We can come to Jesus in the quietness of our hearts, acknowledging His presence despite a toddler's tantrum. We can commune with Him in prayer as we wash and fold and wipe. We can invite Him into every task, not rushing or wishing our days away but doing all things unto Him. He alone can grant true rest - the One who calms storms and multiplies and supplies and upholds us in the palm of His hand. The One who has numbered the hairs on our heads and ordains our days knows our needs in each season of our lives and how to fulfill them. Jesus is waiting for you to come - He sits in the living room of your heart ready for you to join Him. Will you choose to dwell in Jesus today in spite of the distractions and duties that surround you? May we forsake all other medicines and means of "resting" for the true rest offered in Jesus - the One whose yoke is easy and burden is light. As we come to Him again and again, He will refresh, restore, and revive us, giving us what we need for each day.

  • Fear Has No Place Here

    For the Spirit God gave us does not make us fear but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 I hope I'm not alone when I say that fear feels like a frequent visitor on the journey of motherhood. I fear for my children - for their safety, their friendships, their futures, their hearts. I fear we won't have enough family time as they grow older. I fear for our finances. I fear for my own future - what will I do when my children are gone? Our fears can range from rational to ridiculous. But what they all have in common is that they confine us, keeping us from experiencing freedom in Christ and crowding out peace. God has more in store for us - if we will flee from fear and take hold of our identity in Christ. Paul reminds us in Romans 8, "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again; rather the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, 'Abba, Father'" (v. 14-15). God has released us from slavery - we must claim our identity as children of God and cling to Him. Instead of crying out in fear, we cry out, "Father! Help me!" We must concede that we have been adopted, flee from sin, and refute the lies of the enemy. In releasing our fear, we can lean into all that God has for us: life to the full and the comfort of our Father. We have power in this matter, authority in the name of Jesus because we are His children, His heirs. We are not victims - we are victors. We are not held captive - we are captors of fear and the lies of the enemy and anything that takes a stand against the fullness of life that is in Christ. "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us fear but gives us power, love, and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7). We must turn our list of fears into a declaration of faith, a proclamation of freedom. We have power because the Holy Spirit dwells in us and our Father calls us His own. Jesus Himself is interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. We have the fruit of the Spirit growing and abounding in us - including that of self-control, the ability to be disciplined in our thought life. And a note on love: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment" (1 John 4:18). Do I really believe it is true - his love is perfect? When I fear and fret it's because I forget: His love endures forever. His grace is sufficient for me (even in my weakness...especially in my weakness). I believe the fraud of the enemy: I must perform. I must be in control, perfecting my parenting and my life and the lives of my kids. There is no fear when we believe that Jesus is who He says He is, when we believe he told the truth when he breathed his last breath: "It is finished." There is no fear when we trust that His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). So may fear take ground in our hearts and minds no more. May it cease to crowd out peace. May it have no hold on our children - may anxiety find its home elsewhere. May our fears drive us to the arms of our Father as we depend on Him daily for freedom. Fear has no place when we are living in His grace. A prayer against fear and for freedom: Father, forgive me for walking in fear instead of in faith. May fear flee in the name of Jesus. In His name I rebuke the lies of the enemy. Holy Spirit, fill me with your fullness, that there would be no room left for fear to live here. Father, remind me of your truth - I am your daughter. I am held, and your perfect love casts out fear. I claim power, love and self-discipline because your Spirit dwells in me. Help me to remember who You are and who I am in you. In Jesus' name, Amen

  • "Helping" Our Father

    Recently, my two "big" girls (4 and 2 at the time) were "helping" me unload the dishwasher. This involved them wiping off the dishes and either handing them to me or precariously balancing them on the edge of the counter. The dishes weren't fully dried, and many of the cups my daughters handed to me slipped out of their tiny hands back into the dishwasher. Honestly, they're making this more difficult for me, I thought with a smile as I watched them earnestly trying to help with this chore. My girls beamed with pride as they "helped" me; they felt so important and useful. I realized in that moment that I am like my girls as I "help" God. He doesn't need my help - He is completely self-sufficient and more than able - but he asks me to partner with Him anyways. He chooses to use me, to build me up, to train me in His ways to make me more useful instead of just doing His work on His own. What a patient Father we have, that He would invite us into the process of bringing His Kingdom to earth! He empowers US that we might participate in ministry with Him. He could do it instantaneously, without even uttering a word, but instead gives us the gift of partnering with Him. And He has even greater purpose as we "help" Him - He purifies and perfects us, pruning us to make us more fruitful. He's working on us as we work with Him in all of our weakness and insufficiency. Just as I let my girls "help" me, so does the Lord allow us into His Kingdom mission. We are completely dependent on Him even as we serve Him. How beautiful that He gives us a sense of purpose and pride in partnering with Him. I'm thankful for this God who invites us in and propels us into Kingdom work despite our shortcomings. What a good and loving Father we have!

  • Why Dependence Is The Better Way

    But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 I remember when my middle daughter was around eighteen months old and wanted to do everything on her own - "I got it!" she would proclaim repeatedly, attempting actions way beyond her ability. She was determined to do things independently and refused any help, but this often left her crying on the ground when she failed. And isn't this just how we are, too? "I got it!" We might declare we need God with our lips, but with our lives we often deny His help, refusing to depend on Him. We live predominantly independent lives, attempting to control it all and hold everything together. Instead of trusting in God, we are trusting in ourselves. I have been guilty of this again and again - mothering my girls in self-sufficiency. Turning inward for motivation, for happiness, for strength. Turning to lots of sources, tuning out the Source of all things. And I can promise you it never leads to to anything good - I find myself spinning on a hamster wheel; going nowhere and gaining nothing. Running ragged and trying to control all of the outcomes, pouring out to my kids from my own depletion. Wouldn't recommend it. I have found that self-sufficiency leaves us in survival mode (defined as "continuous, unresolved stress") because it all rides on us. I have found the better Way to be counterintuitive, to be subtle and surprising. It involves walking in weakness and making the decision every day to depend on Jesus. This is where where we will find what we truly need for the marathon of motherhood. Here are a few blessings that we receive when we walk in trust and dependence rather than attempting to be self-sufficient: We will be strengthened - "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31). We will be shepherded - "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those who have young" (Isaiah 40:11). We will be surrounded - "Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore" (Psalm 125:1-2). We will be sustained - "Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken" (Psalm 55:22). We will be satisfied - "Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things" (Psalm 107:8-9). Will we accept these gifts from God, these blessings He wants to bestow upon us? It's not necessarily easy - this daily decision to walk in dependence. It's countercultural and goes against our natural bend. But if we will surrender and cease our strivings, choosing to depend, we will find God to provide in every way - and even beyond what we could ask for or imagine.

  • A Small Sacrifice is Still Worth Making

    "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on." Mark 12:43-44 I was on my walk today feeling frustrated, flustered. I heard a podcast recently where the speaker was describing the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude. He recounted how he went into the wilderness for an eight hour retreat, and how around the fifth hour he felt like the Lord spoke to him and met him in the time he had sacrificed. That sounds wonderful, I thought, tears forming in the corners of my eyes, but I don't have five hours. Maybe a couple of times a year I could get away from my kids, from everything, for that length of time (in the current stage we're in). I proceeded to pray: "God, I usually have about five minutes. Will you receive my offering? Will you fill the time that I am able to give to you?" God then reminded me of the widow who offered two coins - "all she had to live on" (Mark 12:44) - and how her offering was worth more than the gifts presented by everyone else, who gave out of their riches. He reminded me of the boy who offered his meager portions of bread and fish to Jesus, and in return witnessed a miracle of multiplication as Jesus fed thousands (John 6:1-14). In these two instances, we see that it's more about the humility of the heart in bringing the offering rather than the amount. It's more about the authenticity and surrender in the sacrifice than the size. As moms, it's about giving the sliver of time that we do have - mere seconds or minutes - and doing so willingly and faithfully. Jesus sees our limited time and resources, our full days, our weaknesses. Will we bring a sacrifice before Him - even if it's small? Will we offer ourselves - as little as we might feel there is left to give? It all comes back to daily dependence (and moment by moment dependence) on Jesus, entrusting Him with all we have because He is worthy. The smallest sacrifices are still worth making - He sees you in your sacrifice and will bless you as you give. He alone can multiply your time, treasure, and talent as you offer it willingly to Him.

  • Love That Can Never Be Erased

    "Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38 I was writing love to my kids on the driveway this afternoon: “I <3 Eden,” “I <3 Josie,” “I <3 Kinley.” Eden thought she was so funny, pouring streams of water over every instance of her name. She would shriek and laugh as I came after her declaring, “I guess I have to write it again now!” This went on probably four or five times. She would erase, I would write. She would erase, I would write. It got me thinking: God’s love is written over our lives, over us, but not in chalk - in permanent marker. Our names are engraved on His nail-scarred hands (Isaiah 49:16). We are marked by the Holy Spirit; signed and sealed - "nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38). Try as we might to douse His love or run from it or reverse it, we will fail time and time again. He will write love on our lives again and again, and the ink with which He writes lasts for eternity - it cannot be removed. May we rest in His love and rejoice that He writes our names on the palm of His hand. We will never be forgotten or forsaken - we are seen, known, and loved. May we not forget it - may we live loved, depending on Jesus to remind us of the Truth and reminding our children daily of this Love that will never falter or fail.

  • Countless Cancelled Playdates

    "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6 It feels like my kids have been sick nonstop over the course of the past year. It seems that adding a third child into the mix has caused every sickness to circle around our family and stick around longer than we’d like. This has led to more time at home than I hoped for and countless cancelled playdates, but it has forced me to learn this lesson the hard way… Hold every plan with an open hand (every. single.plan.). Hold them lightly, surrender them willingly - for your plans are held by His hands. He knows what you need today. He knows what your child needs. He knows your stage and your season and your reasons. He cares about your desires - but he cares more deeply about your needs. And sometimes... you need to be interrupted. You need to be inconvenienced. You need to be reminded that you are not in control. It doesn’t feel good - in the moment, it’s hard to swallow. The fever, the meltdown, the nap schedule gone awry. The realization that the day is going in a different direction than originally intended. But His plan always reigns and rules - despite the day we envisioned for or the one that was our reality, His plan remains supreme. So may we stretch out our hands and surrender our schedules, relinquishing control and receiving His provision. We will find Him to be sufficient, giving us grace for each day, as we depend fully on Him.

  • No Good Thing Apart from God

    "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing." Psalm 16:2 There is this lie of the world that is the root of much discontentment and unrest: My satisfaction is directly related to my circumstances. As Christians we cannot claim that we always live above this lie. We are as guilty as the world of chasing the next thing, the newer thing, whatever will promise us more, better, or best. And as moms…we struggle. Our circumstances feel overwhelming, our schedules are constantly shifting, and the seasons stretch out before us. It is a daily battle for contentment and against comparison as we observe the lives of those around us both online and in person. It will do us good to read Psalm 16 and to be reminded of who God is and challenged to live resting and rejoicing in Him alone. David begins the Psalm, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing,’” (Psalm 16:2). The words on our lips are important - Jesus reminds us in Matthew 12:34, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” How do we speak and how does that reveal our intentions, our desires, our idols? We need to preach and proclaim this to ourselves without ceasing: “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” David continues, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (v. 5-6). God is our Provider and Protector - security and satisfaction come only from Him. He has provided everything that I need for right now. He has not accidentally given what was supposed to be mine to someone else. What is our perspective as we look at our lives? Do we believe that the boundaries that God has put around us are “pleasant”? We are all limited in a variety of ways - we have been gifted specific strengths and weaknesses, finite capacities, bounded resources. Will we choose to live within our limits? With joy? Finally, David declares, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (v. 11). God wants to bless us - eternally, abundantly, joyfully. He does not keep good from us - He preserves good for us. He is not a God who withholds but One who satisfies fully and completely. Will we trust Him to do so? May we declare it with our lives and our lips alongside David: “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

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