White. I just needed white paint. But which white was the right white? (I dare you to say that five times fast.) In other words, which white was true?
I don’t know about you, but I get a little sad every time I read the opening of Genesis. As a middle child, I’ve never been a fan of conflict. Knowing the impending doom of Adam and Eve’s decision makes me want to fast-forward to the end of the script, when Jesus swoops in to make all things right again.
However, I believe it’s important that we pause here because we can all learn an important lesson. In chapter three we meet the enemy of our souls, Satan. If there’s one thing I know to be true about him it’s that thousands of years later he’s still using the same tactics. When we know our enemy, we can know how to fight him . . .
Continue reading at RootedMoms.com
I’ve been sitting on the couch since 7:00am, trying to study my Bible, but finding myself processing ALL THE THINGS instead.
And, my friends, there is a LOT to process.
It has been a month, y’all. My husband has been out of town for work, and I’ve been juggling all the ins and outs of single parenting during a literal world-wide outbreak (while launching a nonprofit). WHEW.
Add to the fun: a trip to the emergency room with my 6-year-old (of all times!) after she nailed her head on the corner of a kitchen cabinet. Fun times. (She is doing fine now, BTW.)
Yesterday, when our county announced they will be closing schools due to COVID-19, effective Monday, the enormity of the situation we’re in fell on me heavily.
I must admit, until quite recently I was one of “those” people. Who joked. Who complained. And (worst of all), judged actions I deemed “extreme and unnecessary.”
As He usually does, the Holy Spirit dropped in to convict and course correct. He helped me begin to see things from a broader perspective, and He pulled back the curtain on the source of my frustration: the need to feel control over the situation.
But the truth is I’m not in control. You aren’t either. And that’s a good thing.
HE is in control. We don’t have to stress or fear because our lives are never outside of His hands.
So, if we can’t control everything, what is our job right now? Most of us have never experienced anything like this before. What does following Jesus look like during this season?
Today, I’m going to share a few things our family is doing from a Biblical perspective during the COVID-19 pandemic:
We're learning to love our neighbors better, and submit to governing authorities.
As Christians--Christ-followers—Christ commands (not recommends) that we put our neighbors first. That means setting aside our plans and preferences when it comes to the spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of others. We are to treat others the way we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12).
These are just a few of the things I’m thinking about as we ride out this big, uncertain wave. As a mom of three germ factories- err, young kids, I’m choosing to abide by the recommendations of the government and CDC and stay in. This choice is not out of fear for what we might catch, but concern for what we may spread. Jesus protected the vulnerable, and we should too.
(For more on this topic, check out this wonderful article by Andy Crouch.)
We're stepping up our prayer game.
After being called out (thanks Holy Spirit) on my initial stinky attitude, I decided this: every time I am tempted to complain about the situation, I’m going to pray about it instead.
As I said on social media yesterday: Science is real. Germs are real. Pandemics are real. But God is also real. He made the sun stand still, the seas part, and donkeys talk. He controls it all.
Now is the time to lift our voices and cry out for help in our time of need. Yes, we need to do our part by using wisdom to protect the most vulnerable among us, but we also need to ask for His mighty hand to intervene.
Psalm 50:15 says, “...call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
Our bold prayers honor God.
It’s time to pray...
For our government.
For our healthcare workers.
For the elderly.
For the media.
Will you join me in lifting our collective voices to the heavens today?
We're walking in wisdom, not fear.
We are doing what is within our control (washing our hands, and practicing social distancing), and trusting God with what is not.
It’s obvious God cares about our health (hello, Levitical law). He has given us an entire book of wisdom, and expects us to walk in it.
Remember that through wisdom and action, Joseph saved an entire nation from obliteration (Genesis 41). He could have disregarded God’s instructions in the name of “faith”, but the results likely would have been devastating. We cannot excuse reckless behavior, then blame the results on “God’s will.”
That being said...
We are choosing faith over fear.
We believe in a God who protects and provides. So we are taking any and all anxiety to Him, and picking up His peace instead (1 Peter 5:7). Knowing God is for us and never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5) gives us peace that passes all understanding— a peace no amount of preparation can give (Philippians 4:7).
We’re doing our part, and trusting that God is doing His.
We're seeking out safe ways to stay connected.
I stand by the actions of government, schools, organizations, businesses, churches, and others who are taking every precaution to “flatten the curve.” I don't believe for one second that it demonstrates fear, or a lack of faith.
But while large-scale meetings simply aren’t going to be wise in the coming days, I believe we need to be more intentional and creative than ever before about authentic connection. With every passing year, I am more convinced than ever that community is crucial to our joy, our spiritual growth, and our sense of belonging.
Here are some ways I’m being intentional:
I took this picture today, before my kids’ last day of school for what will probably be a month.
They protested, but I told them they would appreciate it one day when they tell their kids and grandkids they got out school for a month for the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
My kids don’t understand the magnitude of the days we’re living in and, in many ways, I don’t think I do either. There are so many unknowns— how long will it last? Will our elderly loved ones be safe? What will happen to the economy?
Only time will tell. In the meantime, this is what we’ll be doing. Leaning in, and allowing it to shape us into the men and women of God He desires us to be.
In conclusion, here is a scripture from James 1, from The Message translation:
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so that you will become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get His help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought…” (James 1:2-8)
I'll share more thoughts, as I process, over on social media (links in my "about me" page).
Know that I am praying bold prayers for you, your families, our nation, and our world today!
My daughter, who turned six last fall, is in love with love.
Love notes are her latest obsession. If she’s not playing with dolls or riding on her scooter, you can most often find her in the study where she sits at her white desk carefully cutting and folding. Then, with great focus, she practices her very best Kindergarten handwriting…
“I love you so much because you are so nice.”
“I love you mom and dad. From Bethany.”
“You’re sick. I’m so sorry for you.” (My favorite.)
At this point, her love notes grace nearly every room of our home. She lavishes her love on every resident, even down to the smallest pet— my sister’s cat (who, unfortunately, doesn’t return the sentiment).
Everywhere I turn, little red hearts and those three simple words remind me how my daughter feels about me, her Mama. Y’all most days I feel like I’m failing, and yet she is enamored.
My printer paper stash is empty, but my heart is full.
The truth is, friends, whether married, single, or “it’s complicated,” we all have a not-so-secret Admirer this Valentine’s Day.
Now, you’re probably thinking, I know where this is going, as you hover over your browser’s back button. But if that’s you, I dare you to hear me out…
You see, I’m the kind of girl who grew up wondering if she was noticed. I’m the kind of girl who grew up wondering how God felt about her. And I’m the kind of girl who grew up wondering if she was even worthy of taking up space on this earth.
And now I can’t help but wonder if you are the kind of gal who wonders the same things?
Even though I went to church, served God with all my energy, and said I believed He loved me, deep down I felt that love was contingent on me doing everything perfectly.
I look back now and I ask, “How could you miss it? How could you miss God’s love?” Only in looking back can I see it so clearly.
I realize I missed it then—and still miss it even now, at times--for the same reasons I miss my daughter’s love notes even though they’re right in front of my face…
Mainly: busyness, pride, and shame.
There’s nothing new under the sun. If we open our Bibles to the New Testament we see story after story of people who missed God’s greatest Love Note, Jesus, for the very same reasons…
Any of us would give our left arm to sit at the physical feet of Jesus for two minutes, but Martha missed her opportunity because she was preoccupied serving.
The Pharisees were so offended by Jesus they couldn’t see He was the very Savior for which they were waiting.
The Samaritan woman almost skipped out on a life-altering conversation with the Son of God, because of the labels she had allowed to define her.
It’s crazy to think we have an Admirer whose love for us never wavers— not once— nor will it ever go away. But at some point or another, we all become blinded to the love notes that are right in front of our face.
What is it that is blinding you, today— busyness? Pride? Shame?
I ask not to point a finger, but to pull you in close and whisper these words of hope: just because you can’t see or feel it right now doesn’t mean His love has gone away.
James 4:8 makes it clear that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. It makes me think of Jesus’ description of the Prodigal’s father who sees His son “a long way off” and begins running toward him.
Regardless of whether you’ve been trying to do life on your own, or hiding in shame, or if you’ve simply stuffed your life with distractions, the Father is moved with compassion when He sees us moving in His direction.
Your desire for the Father’s love could never surpass His desire to give it.
A year ago I began praying this simple prayer, that became a catalyst to greater intimacy with Jesus, a greater revelation of His love for me:
“Lord, I want to know You more. Open my eyes to see.”
If you find yourself feeling weary, worthless, or wandering today, let that be your prayer. (By the way, His answer to this prayer is always yes.)
Friend, His love notes are all around us. There’s no mistaking His affections. He is enamored. With you. With me. And not because we’ve done anything to earn it, but simply because we are His.
The truth is He could fill an entire house with love notes to us, and never run out of words because love isn’t just what He does, it’s who He is.
May He open your eyes to see, and may you be filled to the brim with His love this Valentine’s Day.
P.S. No matter how long you've been a Christian, we all need reminders of God's love for us. God's love energizes us, gives us confidence, and calls us home when we are lost.
I created a FREE download for you this week— "love notes" filled with scripture to help you meditate on God's love. Simply print, cut, and place around your house for ongoing encouragement! Click below for an instant download, no strings attached.
A Tale of Twelve Spies (Numbers 13)
Twelve men set out on a mission: scope out the land God had promised to their wandering nation.
“Go up this way to the Negev, then go up into the hill country,” Moses commanded. “See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak.”
What they saw seemed almost too good to be true— clusters of grapes too big for one man to carry alone, ripe red pomegranates, and fresh figs. Their mouths watered, after eating only bread and bird for months on end.
The land was everything Yaweh had made it out to be, and then some. After forty days, they return to their people to give a report.
The people of Israel gather around, nervously awaiting the news. Was the new land obtainable? How hard would they have to fight? Was it worth pursuing? How much loss would they have to endure?
One of the twelve spies steps forward, and a hush falls over the crowd.
“We went into the land where you sent us,” he begins. “Indeed it is flowering with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit.”
Two more spies enter, stage-right, a pole balanced between them. On it hangs a vibrant cluster of deep purple grapes, cascading to the ground.
A collective gasp, then, excited whispers fill the camp.
“HOWEVER…” another spy interrupts, appearing from out of nowhere.
The whispers fade, all eyes are on him…
“The people living in the land are strong,” he attests. “And the cities are large and fortified,” he explains.
The gathered crowd now begins murmuring.
Caleb steps forward and quiets them. With confidence, he proclaims, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!”
Now the two opposing spies stand face-to-face. “They are stronger than we are!” the other argues, “We will die by the sword, and our wives and children will become plunder!”
“The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land,” Joshua chimes in. “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land. Don’t be afraid, for we will devour them— the Lord is with us!”
Suddenly a cry rises from the crowd…
“I Want All That God Has for Me”
Ask any follower of Christ and they’ll tell you they want “all that God has” for them. Yet how many of us really experience the fullness of that intention?
Not enough, would my answer… and I don’t mean that as a criticism.
In the corner of my own life, there’s a sizeable graveyard of well-intended, but unfulfilled God-dreams. Uninhabited territory, if you will, that was intended just for me.
Did I fail God?
Did God fail me?
No, neither idea is true.
I think the story of our Israelite friends in Numbers 14 can help identify what separates the dreams unreached from dreams fulfilled.
God delivered Israel out of their slavery in Egypt and was leading them into a land He had prepared for them— a land where they could worship and enjoy God, and glorify Him.
A year after their exodus, they were on the cusp of entering the Promised Land. I imagine God’s command to Moses to send scouts to check out the land was because He wanted to get the Israelites excited. The land was good, fruitful, and spacious— and as they relied on Him, God was going to make sure of their success.
But instead of excitement, we see the total opposite: fear cripples them.
At the doorstop to their dream, they fail to enter in. An entire generation would have to die off before they would be given the opportunity to try again. God had so much planned He wanted them to experience, but instead they would spend the next forty years wandering in the sand.
When I read that I think, What a tragedy, but the truth is, I’m not much different. And my guess is if you’ve got a heart pumping in your chest and air in your lungs, then you probably can relate. You’ve made vision boards, set goals, bought programs, taken classes, but always seem to stop just shy of reaching your dreams.
As we look forward into 2020, there are two questions we should ask--
The first is simple: What “land” is God leading you into?
Is it a move you need to make?
A book you need to write?
A career move you need to pursue?
A ministry you need to start?
A debt you need to pay off?
Whatever it is, know this: God gives us dreams. They are always for our good and for His glory. He longs for us to go after them.
Now that we've identified our "land," here is the second question: What spirit will you choose?
A Different Spirit
Where was the line drawn between those who entered into the Promised Land and those who didn't?
In Numbers 14:24 and 30, God says, “But since my servant Caleb has a different spirit and has remained loyal to me, I will bring him into the land where he has gone and his descendants will inherit it. I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb… and Joshua.”
Out of the entire nation of Israel during this time, only two would experience and enjoy the land: Joshua and Caleb.
Not because they did everything right.
Not because they had supernatural abilities.
Not because they were born into the right tribe.
But because they had a “different spirit.”
What was that spirit?
You see, every Israelite heard the same report: the land was good, but the people living in it were many, and fearsome.
But every Israelite had also witnessed the plagues God sent to facilitate their freedom from Egypt, the sea He parted, the water He brought out of a rock, the manna He sent from heaven, the visible cloud that led them by day, and the fire that went before them by night.
What is Your Focus?
Joshua and Caleb considered the challenges ahead, but chose to focus on the faithfulness and the might of their God. They knew that taking the land would be hard work, but they also knew that if God would help them every step of the way.
The rest of the Israelites considered the challenges ahead and chose to focus solely on their own ability. The result? They were overcome by fear and anxiety, so much so that the Bible tells us they wept. (Num. 14:1)
One of my favorite verses is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy where he encourages his mentee, “Therefore, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7
As you move forward, fear will try to push you back. You'll have thoughts like,
What if I fail?
What if I go broke?
What if others talk behind my back?
How much will I have to sacrifice?
Satan will bring these “giants” out one by one and cause you to see yourself as a “grasshopper” compared in size to them (Num. 13:33). When he does this, we have a choice to make.
As we look to 2020, carrying our dreams closely, wondering will this finally be the year, we can either:
a.) Envision ourselves going at it alone, dwell on the sacrifices it will take, and imagine worst-case scenario, or
b.) Count the cost, remind ourselves of who God is—loving, faithful, and able— and envision Him going before us, leading us, granting us wisdom, and driving out our enemies every step of the way.
You’re so close to the Promised Land, my friend. Don’t let fear stop you now.
Let this be the year you embrace a “different spirit,” and “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of [you].” (Philippians 3:12)
Take hold of the land!
“Truth be told, I never set out to be in the staffing business. Nor have I always felt a burden for the refugee community. But life’s experiences have a way of shaping our passions and experiences into purpose, don’t they?
The only thing I knew was that I liked helping people. And I realized, along the way, that business, when leveraged intentionally, could be used to do so. That simple awareness, plus a chain of extraordinary events only God could have set into motion, led me to where I am today.”
—Chapter One, "Refugee Workforce”
Everybody has a story.
In my job, I have the pleasure of clearing away the dirt, and digging up the bones of those stories, and putting them into written form.
I wrote the words above one early morning (probably 5am or so) in early spring, as I revisited chapter one of “Refugee Workforce,” as the original version just wasn’t sitting right with me.
Chapter one is built around Amplio Recruiting Founder & CEO, Chris Chancey’s story, and answers the question: “How does a middle class white guy from South Georgia find himself running a refugee staffing agency?”
Similarly, I find the question I get asked most often, recently, is, “Tell me about your book!” and when I explain it to them the second question their eyes ask is, “How did you get involved in this??”
So I think it’s time I share my story. A God story. I love sharing it with anyone who allows, because it reveals so much of His providence and goodness.
Like Chris, I never set out to be doing what I am now— realeasing a book on the value of refugees in the American workplace.
Like most people of my race and class, I did a pretty good job turning a blind eye to the refugee crisis. Sure, I saw horrific photos and videos in my newsfeed from time to time. Yet, sadly, none of that momentary heartbreak ever moved me to action.
At the beginning of 2017 I felt a stirring in my spirit. I had been working for the same nonprofit organization for a dozen years where I had grown from “administrative assistant,” managing databases and mailouts and such, to much bigger tasks like overseeing fundraisers, writing copy, and managing social media.
When my kids were little I had begun writing as a hobby. God was teaching me so much in that “season of small,” as I call it, and blogging was a good way to process it.
As the years ticked by, I realized not only was writing a good “release” for me, but I actually had a knack for it. (I probably should have realized that in middle school when I won several writing contests. Just ask God— I’m a slow learner.) In my quiet times with the Lord He would whisper to my heart sweet promises about writing books, and even “opening my mouth to speak.”
But the years kept ticking by, and it seemed nothing was happening. Most days, when I hit the “publish” button, it felt I was sending my words into outer space.
I had an idea of what life would look like as a writer, and my life didn’t seem to be headed in that direction. The discrepancy between what I heard and what I saw caused me to question.
There was one point where I pulled an “Abraham.” Giving birth to a dream that was not in God’s timing. The dream wasn’t wrong, but the season was, and when God shut it down it felt like He had stepped on my toes. A wilderness season followed, and I felt as though I would never write again.
Yet I was writing.
Website copy. Letters. E-mails. Posts.
Little did I know God was using those experiences to prepare me for what was next.
If I’m honest, I had prayed many times over my twelve years at my job that God would move me on, sometimes due to conflict, sometimes due to boredom. As immature as I was, in many ways, I'm glad I had the wisdom to know if God wasn’t moving, then neither should I.
But in early 2017 I began to get the sense that He was leading me onward.
After months of praying, and fasting, and meeting with a mentor, my mentor asked, “So when are you finally going to do something about it?”
She was only speaking to me what God had already been saying in my Spirit. I felt God was calling me to a job where I could utilize my skills in writing, but fear paralyzed me— where would I go?
I don’t even have a degree, I worried, and what marketable skills do I even have to offer?
I had become so accustomed to working from home, I hated the idea of being away from my children (even though the thought of a quiet office without “Frozen” blaring in the background sounded quite appealing).
I’d seen God move many mountains over the years. But I wondered if He could provide just the right niche.
Faith rose up within me, and I decided to take the first step.
I’ll never forget the morning I met with my boss and told her I felt like God was leading me elsewhere. I would finish out the next few months, but plan to leave at the end of the summer.
I felt ashamed, and I felt like a lunatic. I had no other job lined up, and no idea where I was headed. Just a gut instinct that it was time for the next chapter.
Faith and Fear battled for control of my mind. I needed something to hold onto— I begged God for a Word.
Then one morning in prayer, out of the blue, but as clear as day, I heard the words, “soft landing.”
I didn’t’ know what it meant, but I liked it. God was going to give me a soft landing. Whatever that was. It gave my faith the footing it needed to hold on another day.
The following weeks flew by as I focused on “leaving well” (another word from the Holy Spirit). And as the days began to count down to my last paycheck, I felt my faith dwindling.
I should probably note that we weren’t in a position where we could pay all of the bills and keep food on the table without my income. The need was immediate.
And in all of this, there were no visible signs of pending opportunity. It seemed God was silent.
Isn’t that how every God story goes?
The walls of Jericho were impenetrable, until God knocked them down.
Sarah was unable to become pregnant, until God enabled her to be so.
Noah was just a crazy man with weird yard décor, until God sent the flood.
And I would be jobless in four days, until I received a single phone call.
“Sarah Chancey” appeared across my phone. I picked up, wondering if she simply had an update on her ill father’s health.
“Hey, I know you're looking for a job. Chris is looking for someone to write stories for his company blog…” she said. Then proceeded to tell me what his company was: a staffing company, helping resettled refugees connect with jobs.
“They have the most amazing stories,” she told me. “Someone needs to write them.”
As she told me about their vision for the position, I could hardly believe it. The job checked every box, and I knew that it was a God-send. A soft landing.
I didn’t have to strive to make it happen. My job was to stay close to God, listen, obey, and trust Him.
A couple weeks later I sat down to write my first “audition” blog. My stomach was in knots.
The voice of fear was L O U D.
Who are you to do this job? It screamed. You’re not a real writer. You’re a phony. You’re a fake.
But by the grace of God I persisted on anyway. There was no denying God had signed, sealed, and delivered the job— so He must believe in me.
Come to find out, I coulddo the job. And I enjoyed it. Oh, how I enjoyed it.
I had the equal parts pleasure and heartbreak of interviewing the most incredible individuals I had ever met.
It was an absolute honor to write and share their stories. The more refugees I spoke to, the more I began to recognize the tremendous impact of employment. The more employers I spoke to, the more I began to recognize the equally tremendous impact of refugees in the workplace.
I was writing. And even though it didn’t look like anything I had imagined years before, I had the most secure feeling that I was right where I belonged.
As it turns out, y’all, God has a pretty good handle on things.
The defining lesson I’ve learned over the last decade of my life: God can be trusted with my dreams.
God is such a good Father. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but He always gives us what we need.
Had I left my previous job any earlier than He allowed, I would have thwarted the growth God was trying to produce in me.
I wasn’t trying to turn this blog into a lesson, but I’m not just a writer, I’m a teacher. So if you’re reading this and you’re in a place where your life doesn’t look like what you thought it would, keep holding on, and ask Him for a Word.
I promise He’ll give you one. And when He does, hold onto it tight and keep walking in faith, until it comes into fruition. (If you doubt it will, see Isaiah 55:11.)
So there you have it. That’s how I ended up here. Publishing my first “real” book with my name and my face on it.
I never imagined my first book would be a business-y book touting the value of a marginalized people group. But Jesus spent His life speaking love and value into people, so it only seems fitting that I should do the same in every environment He puts me into.
What a joy. What an honor. What a privilege.
So that’s my story. Well, in part.
Lord knows I could fill a book with stories of the way He’s faithfully loved and led me over the years.
Maybe I will…
It only took a week for the back-to-school meltdowns to begin.
Oh, not the kids’.
Maybe it was too ambitious of me to serve up nutritious smoothies for breakfast, after a week of solo parenting (Hubby’s been out of town for work).
Maybe it the fact that I’d been up since 3:45am to finish important work project.
Maybe it was just hormones.
Whichever “maybe” it was, my children’s lack of enthusiasm (and gratitude, ahem) struck a nerve. Apparently a very sensitive one.
So I snapped.
I saw it immediately on my Middle’s face: shame.
I wanted to stop, but my frustration-fueled words were like an unstoppable train.
I managed to compose myself and continue serving the tall glasses of frozen fruit (with a side of contempt), until Eldest informed me he wasn’t really hungry.
I won’t go into all the details of what shall henceforth be known as “The Great Smoothie Meltdown of 2019,” but I will say by the time I put my kids on the bus with a quick kiss *I* was the one who felt ashamed.
As I began my usual morning prayer walk, I didn’t want to pray. I wanted to hide.
How could you behave like that?
You call yourself a Bible teacher?
Did you see the look on his face?
You’re a terrible mom.
“Move on,” Holy Spirit’s voice interrupted my self-berating.
I took a deep breath.
Okay. I know. If I don’t stop this negative thought train it’s going to wreck my entire day. I need to acknowledge it and move on.
So I remembered that one bad moment doesn’t make me a bad mom.
I asked God to forgive me for my unloving words and actions and to help me remember the pain of the moment to fuel better self-control in the future.
I blessed my children—each one by name and made a mental note to ask their forgiveness as soon as they arrived home from school.
Okay, now I could move on.
Except I couldn’t.
As I began talking to God about other things, guilt and fear kept interrupting.
Towards the end of our walk, I heard Holy Spirit clearly, “You still haven’t moved on, have you?”
“No,” I admitted out loud, unconcerned with what the neighbors might think about the strange, sweaty woman talking to herself.
That was when I realized I was taking the wrong approach. Trying not to think about the events that had occurred only made me think about them more.
Case in point: If I tell you not to think about a penguin, is that not the first image that pops into your mind?
Instead of focusing on what I lacked, I needed to focus on what I had been given. Instead of declaring my failures, or just trying to forget about them, I needed to declare the victory.
“I have the mind of Christ,” I said. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
It was, admittedly, a slow start. Until I asked God for help. Then He reminded me--
“I am God’s workmanship. Created for good works, which God has prepared for me before I was ever born. He chose me to be Avery, Emory and Bethany’s mom.” (Ephesians 2:10)
“I am forgiven. Every sin- past, present, and future- is under the blood of Jesus from the moment I confess them.” (1 John 1:9)
“I am adopted. My Father helps me and provides everything I need.” (Romans 8:14-17)
“I am the righteousness of God, in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
As I began to declare what God says about me, instead of what I felt about myself in that moment, the shadow of shame left. I began to be filled with hope and encouragement.
I returned home to a sink full of dirty dishes.
“Remember this morning?” they seemed to taunt.
Yeah, I remember. I smiled to myself.
But I’m moving on.
The memory was still there, but it lost its power over me.
It wasn’t that I forget, I just made a decision: to move on, like God did.
I love what the author of Hebrews wrote— “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
You see, it’s not just sin that Satan uses to keep us from running our race. When Satan can't keep us entangled in sin, he'll throw guilt, fear, and shame at us in an attempt to hinder us from moving forward.
Friend, I don’t know what your “Great Smoothie Meltdown of 2019” is.
Maybe you snapped at your husband this morning.
Maybe you bombed an important project at work last week.
Maybe you found yourself gripped by an unspeakable sin years ago.
No matter the failure, no matter how long ago— God doesn’t want you to be stuck in your guilt, shame, or regret another second. He's got a race marked out for you and He sent me here to tell you— today is your day to move on.
His love and forgiveness know no bounds.
Guilt and shame have no place in you, child of God.
He is the great Restorer and Redeemer, able to make beautiful things out of the broken.
If we’ve confessed our sins and been obedient to take the appropriate actions, He’s already moved on--shouldn’t we, also?
I know it’s hard to fathom, but when God looks at you, he doesn’t see your failures. Not a single one of them.
He sees you as His beloved.
So revisit the Book, and let Him remind you who you are.
And remember this, friend:
God doesn’t need our perfection— He just needs a heart that is after Him.
So set your face like flint toward the one who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous plan, and move on.
If you know me, you know I am passionate about a lot of things.
I’m well on my way to reading 20 books in 2019. Last month I finished up “The Good Neighbor,” by Maxwell King. It’s a biography about the life and work of Fred Rogers, who I find incredibly fascinating.
Fred was adamant about producing quality children’s television in a time when many stations were only concerned with what would make them more money. He was a devout Christian, and worked many Christian morals and principles into Mr. Rogers Neighborhood episodes.
Fred studied the Bible, and was even an ordained Presbyterian minister, but he also knew there was value to scientific understanding of the way the brain worked. This led him to rely heavily on the work of child psychiatrist, Dr. McFarland, for input.
One particular paragraph from “The Good Neighbor” really stuck out to me, about the method Dr. McFarland used to teach. When teaching children about art, this is what she did:
“… when McFarland wanted to expose to the little children at the Arsenal Center to the work of a sculptor, she gave these instructions to the artist she invited to her classes: ‘I don’t want you to teach sculpting. All I want you to do is to love clay in front of the children. And that is what he did. He came once a week for a whole term and sat with the four-and-five-year olds as they played, and he ‘loved’ his clay in front of them. The children caught his enthusiasm for it, and that’s what mattered. Like most good things, teaching has to do with honesty.”
As a mom I want each of my children to not only know about Jesus but walk in deep, fulfilling relationship with Him. My desire for them to be rooted in Christ, in this shaky world, is so strong, that I often become overwhelmed at how.
What I think we can all learn from Mr. Rogers, and, of course, Dr. McFarland, is the most effective way we can make the next generation hungry for God is not by more information—but by loving Jesus in front of them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and have realized that loving Jesus in front of my children requires two things:
The truth is I can’t love Jesus, if I don’t first allow Him to love me. 1 John 4:19 tells us that “We love [God], because He first loved us,” meaning our love is simply in response to His. God’s love for me is unfailing and unending, but that doesn’t mean I am always walking in it. Let’s put it this way—If it’s raining in Georgia, but I’m in Tennessee, I’m not going to experience that rain.
God’s love is constantly pouring out on us, but many of us aren’t in a position to receive it. Insecurities, wounds from our past, and consciously walking in sin can keep God’s love from getting in.
Spend some time thinking about God’s infinite love for you. You were worth Jesus to Him.Really let it sink in. And if insecurities, wounds or sin work their way up, deal with them. There is grace for that, my friend.
Abide under the waterfall of God’s love. Let it fill you and restore you. Then, allow that love to pour out onto others, and heap it back on Him.
Here comes the second part— transparency. Transparency is often misunderstood, but it simply means this: walking out my relationship with God in front of them (with discretion).
It means letting them into my good days and my bad. Confessing my need for Jesus to help me with my attitude, or exhaustion. I tell them what I’m praying for, then we celebrate when God answers. In fact, we’ve made celebration a huge part of our life through our tradition called, “Chocolate Milk Cheers.”
For the past month our family has been praying that God would send the perfect family to purchase our home. Last week God answered beyond our wildest imagination. Since we’ve been open with our kids about the need for a buyer, they too got to celebrate God’s goodness when we received our answer.
“We prayed for that!” they squealed, as they remembered sitting in the driveway and talking to God just last Sunday. This weekend we will take time to stop and remember, and add it to our jar of answered prayers.
The only way my kids will know God is a good God—not just a fictional character, or dictator, is by taking time to recognize His constant presence, provision, and care.
What need are you currently praying for, or what has God done in your life this week that you can celebrate?
Kids don’t fall in love with art by memorizing facts, they fall in love by engaging. It’s not about having all the right words, it’s about loving Jesus in front of them.
When they see our enthusiasm, they won’t be able to resist joining in.
I made one crucial mistake when we put our house on the market: I prayed that it would be an answer to prayer for the family that would buy it.
The listing posted, and the days ticked by.
One, two, three, four, five…
The market is hot right now, I thought. God’s got this! It won’t be long before he sends the right person.
Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen…
Okay, God, what is the deal? I thought for sure that we would see an offer by now.
We had been preparing for and believing for the sale of our house for months—God gave us the idea to begin with.
Maybe I should pray harder. “Okay, God, please do it!”
Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty…
I know! I'll fast to show God how desperate I am.
I’m pretty sure the Big Man gets a good kick out of my frustration and antics (much like my husband). I imagine Him sitting up there with a big grin, shaking His head in amusement, waiting on me to come to this conclusion:
I can’t make the walls fall down. Only He can do that.
You see, I’ve been reading in Joshua, about the Israelites’ final days in the desert. First, the miracle crossing of the Jordan, before entering into the Promised Land. If that’s not enough to boost your faith, then I don’t know what is.
But then, the walls of Jericho. Oh, how I love this one. Who doesn’t love an overcoming-the-impossible drama?
I. Was. Pumped. Yeah, God! I’m going to keep marching around these walls until they fall!
But God began to give me a deeper revelation. As I began to study the walls of Jericho, details surfaced that challenged the way I thought about the age-old lesson.
First, the walls of Jericho were a three-tiered system. The highest wall, from where they marched, would have stood a daunting 46-feet over them. In other words: there was no way they were bringing those walls down on their own. Neither was there any way they were getting over them. And since “the gates of Jericho were tightly shut,” (Josh. 6:1) they were completely dependent on God for the victory.
God had given the Israelites very specific instructions. Mainly, walk around the town silently (except for the priests blowing horns) once a day for six days, then seven times on the seventh. Then shout loudly, and the walls would collapse.
I find it interesting that God directed them to be quiet. It was probably for their own good, lest they return to the complaining that had kept them wandering for forty years in the desert. What I find odd is that He didn’t even ask them to pray or worship. He didn’t ask them to beg to see the miracle happen.
Can you imagine how crazy the Israelites must have felt? Walking around silently, on nothing other than faith in God’s promise that He would make the walls found down?
The second tidbit of information I discovered in my study was what struck me the most. Did you know that, while Jericho was well known for its fortifications, it really wasn’t that large? The town measured approximately six square acres— nine, when including its walls. Which means that the Israelites daily walk around the perimeter of Jericho would have only totaled about a half of a mile.
All my life I’ve always imagined the Israelites walking for much of the day in the sweltering heat of the desert sun. Instead, what I thought was a marathon was more of a morning walk.
If I were an Israelite I would be thinking, Are you kidding, God? Surely there is something more I should do.
But no. No, there wasn’t. And there still isn’t.
Remember Moses’ sin that kept him from entering the Promised Land? He struck the rock, attempting to get water out, when God had commanded Him simply to speak to it.
I could be wrong, but I feel like Jericho may have been one last test to see if the Israelites had learned the lesson: Will you simply seek me, obey my instructions, then trust Me to do the rest?
Joyce Meyer always says, “We are partners with God.” Man, I love that truth. But the reality of it is God can’t do my part, and I can’t do what only He can do.
I can lay the mulch, paint the trim, and hire a realtor— but there’s no amount of willing and pleading that can make the house sell. I’ve done my half-mile lap. Now, He simply wants me to be still (Ps. 46:10).
Here is one thing I know: if God starts something, He will bring it through to fruition. Not in my time, but in the right time. He is faithful, and He will do it (1 Thess. 5:24).
How do I know? The same way the Israelites did: years of experience. All I have to do is look back to see his unfailing faithfulness.
I don’t know what your wall is, but I know we all have them.
(If nothing comes to mind immediately, finish this sentence: I thought for sure ___________ by now.)
Okay, you have your answer? Now ask yourself this: “Have I done my part?” If so, then friend, all that’s left to do is rest.
God, our good Father, is taking care of it. When temptation comes to take matters into your hands (strike the rock), resist and give it back to Him. These three simple words have been my mantra lately, “God, I trust You… I trust You… I trust You.”
Or maybe you’ve stopped showing up for your half-mile responsibility. I’ve been there, too. But God doesn’t work that way. Your obedience is faith expressed in action, and He honors that by making what only He can happen.
The Israelites got a lot of things wrong in their day (and I have too). But Jericho wasn’t one of them. They did exactly as the Lord commanded, and on the seventh lap of the seventh day they blew their horns and gave a mighty shout. Sure enough, in an event archeologists can only describe as a well-timed earthquake, the walls came a-tumbling down.
Yours will too. And so will mine.
Hear God. Have faith. Be obedient. Rest in Him.
Nothing is impossible.
P.S. I'm not on social media right now, as I'm focused on some pretty big projects.
If you enjoyed this blog, I'd love if you would take a minute to share it!
This week my husband and I celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary.
That’s a dozen years of marriage. Like, a whole box of doughnuts. (Some doughnuts crazier than others.)
In those twelve years we’ve had three kids, moved three times, and completely changed careers. Both of us.
We own a house now, two cars, and a dog, who we kinda like. We manage our own businesses. We even have some savings in the bank. In other words, we now have a lot of responsibilities.
This past year our youngest turned five and started Pre-K, which means we’ve found ourselves out of the survival stage of parenting, and into the light (cue the hallelujah chorus).
In reclaiming some of our life (and sanity), we began to realize that it was high time we get our life in order, including making a will. I turn 34 this week, which means I’m not old, but I’m not young either—and I’m not naïve enough to think nothing could happen to me, and I’ll live forever, anymore.
My husband and I wanted to be sure that, should something happen to us, our kids would be well taken care of, and our friends and family wouldn’t have to sit around guessing what we would want them to do— they would know exactly what we wanted and, hopefully, carry out those wishes.
We sat down to write out our will and wrote out things like who we would want to make our health decisions, and who we would want to care for our kids. And, having life insurance policies, we had to decide at what age we thought our kids would be mature enough to handle that well. So, obviously, we typed in “45.”
In all this thinking about what would be our final instructions to our family, it got me thinking about Jesus’ last words.
The cool thing about Jesus is He didn’t just have one set of last words— He had two.
We love Jesus’ first-last words. When He was dying on the cross, suffering on our behalf, taking on our sin and shame, giving us right-standing with God— He said three words before taking His last breath: “It is finished.”
We really like those last words because they mean every sin that we’ve ever committed and every sin we ever will commit is covered under His blood. Because of His sacrifice, we are forgiven and dearly loved sons and daughters of God.
But Jesus had a second set of last words. Because, as I’m sure you know (if not: spoiler alert) He came back.
He walked the earth for another 40 days, doing crazy stuff. Showing up in locked rooms, disappearing and such. But when He knew his time was coming to an end and it was time to return to the Father, He gathered His disciples for a second set of last words.
We read them in Matthew 28:18-20.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
I can imagine Jesus, pulling his disciples in for a huddle. Looking into the eyes of the men He had spent the past 3 years pouring into. And I bet the disciples were fully tuned in, listening intently as Jesus makes known what they are to do next.
So Jesus tells them, “Listen—the way that I have done life with you—I want you to go do the same with others. Keep following my ways, and help others become followers too. Help. Teach. Love. Admonish.”
In the same way my husband and I wrote down everything we would want our friends and family to do in the event that we leave this earth unexpectedly, in Jesus’ last words, He laid out exactly what He wanted us to do so we wouldn’t have to sit around and wonder.
He was letting us know that discipleship is for all of us.
But there’s a problem I’ve taken note of in the church body. It’s that Jesus gave us a job to do, and yet so many of us have abandoned our posts.
We’ve settled for being spectators.
Meanwhile I look at the world around me and I see so much pain and suffering. I see people plagued by addiction and mental illness. I see the next generation left to figure things out for themselves, so they're settling for unsound doctrine; settling for a watered-down, powerless, self-serving version of Jesus.
All the while, so many of us who call ourselves Christ-followers are content to show up on Sunday morning, sing a few feel-good songs, be “fed” by our pastors, and go right back home.
I say all this not to point a finger at anyone else because, if I’m honest, I don’t always want to take the time to invest in others. I’ll see a friend who is having a tough time in their marriage, or a college student who is struggling with their faith, and I’ll feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do something… and yet I do nothing.
It’s because, in any area of obedience to God, we’re going to face some opposition.
The first opposition is our flesh.
I don’t know about you, but my flesh is really skilled at coming up with excuses.
(Some of them sound really holy and admissible, too.)
Well, God, you know you made me an introvert, so surely you must understand that I need my space.
Well, God, you said you want me to be pure, so surely you wouldn’t want me hanging around with those messy people who are going to bring me down.
Well, God, I’m just so busy. You’ve given me these three kids, a husband, a house, and a career. And then there’s ministry. I’m just so busy doing ministry. Who has time for people?
And God, you know I’m just not qualified. I’m still trying to figure this whole Christian walk thing out, so who am I to disciple anyone else? Isn’t that the pastor’s job? The church staff’s job? Or someone more spiritual than me?
Has anyone else out there ever had thoughts like this?
In obedience to the call to disciple, we’re going to face the opposition of the flesh.
But there’s a second opposition, and that’s Satan. Satan would love nothing more than to squelch the move of God upon this earth and to keep you from the full life God wants for you.
Satan has been offering us lies since the beginning of time (Genesis 3), and I think the primary reason so many of us are hesitant to embrace Jesus’ will is that we’ve accepted this lie: that we are happier and more fulfilled by what we receive.
And so we embrace the first of Jesus’ last words—that He loves us and has a good plan for us, and we are forgiven and free— but neglect His second last words which tell us that we have a job to do.
We turn down his invitation to be a part of His great plan, and we sit around wondering why the world is such a mess, and why we feel our lives are missing something.
I was sharing with a friend some thoughts about discipleship and she stopped me, with a smile and pulled out a napkin and a pen and begin drawing a picture. My friend had just returned from Israel, where she got to see where Jesus walked, and be baptized in the Jordan river. She drew a picture of that river, and explained to me how the Sea of Galilee flows down into it, and both are teeming with life, but down at the very bottom, there is the Dead Sea.
Now, I’ve never been great at geography, but I do know one thing about the Dead Sea: it’s dead. There are no plants, or animals, or organisms living in it. Just a little bit of bacteria and some fungus. Yuck.
My friend asked, “You wanna know why there’s so much life in the Jordan river and the sea of Galilee, and nothing down here in the Dead Sea?” She paused. “It’s because the flow stops here.”
Hopefully the lightbulbs are turning on.
If they aren’t, let me break it down: We can sit around all day and read our Bibles, and understand that Jesus loves us, but if we do nothing to pass that along to others, we will remain stagnant and lifeless in our faith. The flow cannot stop with us.
If you’re reading this and you feel like your life is missing something, might I suggest that it's probably not because of something else you need, but because of something you need to give away.
Over the past few years, I’ve experienced this. I went from being one of the most self-focused, miserable Christians you ever met to understanding the joy of investing in others.
What I have learned along the journey is that God’s plan for discipleship isn’t just for those being discipled, it is for those doing the discipling too.
It’s hard to explain, but there is this joy and fulfillment like no other when I get my mind off of myself, and my problems, and begin to pour into others.
Jesus said in John 10:10 that, “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” but Jesus came that we would, “have life, and have it to the full.”
Satan would love to kill the move of God. He would love to steal your joy. Don’t fall for the lie that you will be more satisfied the more life you keep to yourself.
God’s Kingdom is an upside down kingdom, where we are more blessed to give than to receive— and we are never more fully alive than when we give our lives to others.
It’s time to get serious about Jesus’ last words. Not just so we can earn brownie points and feel better about ourselves, but because there are lives that are counting on us.
You have co-workers who don’t know that life can be better than what they’re experiencing.
There are moms and dads who aren’t sure how to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
There are girls who don’t know their worth, so they are selling themselves on social media and on the streets.
There are men who are cutting their lives short because they feel like failures.
And there are boys who don’t know how to be men of God, because no one has ever taught them.
You have something to give— whether you’ve been following Jesus for 6 months, or 60 years. Your life, your story matters.
People are waiting on us to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
My challenge to you today is to ask God who He would have you to reach out to. Then, simply be obedient. You don't have to have all of the answers to begin. Just begin.
What will you do with Jesus’ last words?
P.S. I'm a big believer in small groups, because I believe discipleship in the context of community can be a powerful catalyst to a believer's growth. If you've ever thought about starting your own small group, I've got a brand new resource to help. "Start: Small" is my free ebook with five simple steps to help you get started. Visit my resource page to learn more and subscribe to receive your free ebook.
2018 was one for the books (insert cheesy laughter)…
My husband changed jobs.
I grew significantly in my career.
My youngest started school.
I lost 20 pounds. (Don’t be too impressed—this was after gaining 20 pounds the year prior.)
And I read 17 books.
Seventeen books was just shy of my goal of eighteen, but I’m not dismayed. This year I’ve set a larger, but still modest goal of 20 books.
I’ve always been a “natural reader” (whatever that means), but I’ve never made a plan for what I read. This year, I’m changing that.
Inspired by a friend who posted his reading list this week, I’ve pre-chosen the twenty books I will read over the coming twelve months.
Here they are:
Mentoring 101 – John Maxwell
Love Undocumented – Sarah Quezada
The Minimalist Budget – Simeon Lindstrom
It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way – Lysa Terkeurst
Love Lives Here – Maria Goff
The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships – Suzanne Stabile
Dare to Lead – Brene Brown
The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers – Maxwell King
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Austin Channing Brow
Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God Speaks – Priscilla Shirer
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King
I Am Malala: The Story of the girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban – Malala Yousafzai
Parenting Your Fifth Grader: A Guide to Making the Most of the “I’ve got this” Phase – Kristen Ivy
Mother and Son: The Respect Effect - Emerson Eggerichs
Start Here: A Groundbreaking, Science-Based Program for Emotional Fitness – Eric Langshur
We Were the Lucky Ones – Georgia Hunter
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela - Nelson Mandela
Boundaries - Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Love your Life Not Theirs – Rachel Cruze
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional – Asheritah Ciuciu
What about you— what are you reading in 2019?
If picking books and planning a schedule seems daunting to you, here are a few questions to help get you started:
1. What kinds of books do you want to read more of this year? I’ve made a personal effort to read more books from authors who don’t look like me, or have the same background, to continually challenge and expand my worldview. I’ve also included more fiction books in my list this year, at the recommendation of a friend who keeps me grounded. As someone who previously read pretty much from the same category for ten years (Christian nonfiction), this represents growth!
2. In what areas are you wanting to grow this year? I’m a One on the enneagram, so it’s natural for me to come up with about 46 areas I want to improve, but I honed it down to just a few. This year I’m focusing on financial and emotional heath, personally. And as the mom of a ten year old boy, I’m facing parenting challenges I’ve never faced before—so I added a couple of books to glean some wisdom there. As a storytelling writer looking to grow in my craft I’ve added a few biographies and autobiographies for inspiration.
3.What is the rhythm of your year?
Though each year brings new surprises and challenges of its own, I’ve found the rhythm of each year is usually the same. For me, winter is a time of deep introspective growth. I do a lot of reading, praying, and planning. With the kids home during the summer, I am focused on parenting, and preparing for the new school year ahead. I also don’t have a lot of time to myself, so I have to keep that in mind. In the fall my world picks up speed, with family birthdays in September, two in November, and another right before Christmas. That mixed in with the holidays means limited time for much else other than family. That’s just the rhythm of my year. What’s yours? Consider it when planning this year’s reads.
4.What is your goal?
One of the best books I read in 2017 was “Finish,” by Jon Acuff. In it, he takes a seemingly counterintuitive approach to setting goals. He points out that the majority of people tend to supersize goals to make them sexier, or give us a bigger rush from imagining we’ll finish it. But often, after setting these larger than life goals, we fall short and give up. The truth is 92% of us fail because we are “foolishly optimistic.”
His suggestion? “Cut your goal in half.”
Think you can read 52 books this year? Cut that in half.
Why? Wrong-sized goals cause us to quit when the voice of perfectionism creeps in. I love the way Jon explains this idea:
“…if your goal was to lose ten pounds and you only lost eight, you would have failed by two pounds. Most of us believe the old adage, ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,’ but that’s not how life really works.
The all-or-nothing mentality of perfectionism tells us that close enough doesn’t count. The stars are not good enough. You now have an ocean of incentive to quit your goal.
But if you’d cut the goal in half to five pounds and then lost eight, you’d be a lot more likely to continue because of your initial victory. You would have lost the same amount of weight, but one approach would have almost guaranteed that you’d finish your initial goal and try another one.”
The truth is I’ll probably read more than twenty books this year. But twenty is a great goal. It is enough.
So what about you? What books will you read in 2019?
If you don’t already have a Goodreads account, it’s a great way to track the books you want to read, check out reviews, and follow what your friends are into. You can find me on Goodreads here.
Happy reading, friends!
Katie Gibson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
A little about me...
Hi, I'm Katie!
Wife to Craig, mom of three, author, writer, Jesus-follower, Bible teacher, and coffee enthusiast.
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