Guest-Writers, {Life}

{Life} My Mission Field

Written By: Tricia Underwood

I still remember the feeling of actually literally seeing a prayer being answered in front of my eyes for the first time.

I was 18 years old and was on a mission’s trip in Mexico. The larger group our small youth group was ministering alongside of were spending the days walking around from neighborhood to neighborhood, inviting anyone and everyone that would listen from some of the poorest places in Mexico, to the outdoor “church” service we would have each evening. The children’s service consisted of a puppet show and artistic drama with chalk that captivated children of all ages. Meanwhile, the adults were seated within eyesight of their children, hearing their own age-appropriate gospel message~ most for the very first time!

Day after day, this was our routine. The places I saw that people lived, broke and melted my prideful and apathetic heart. Up until that point in my life, I never really stopped living my own, self-centered life long enough to truly consider that there were people living in the conditions I saw. I saw mothers~ good, loving mothers~ doing the best they could to provide what little food and dry shelter they could for their children. It was hard not to question if God had forgotten these people. I remember feeling like these people were living on the island of misfits (from the Christmas movie, “Rudolph”) and thinking, “What did I ever do to be born so lucky in the country and family I was born into?!” I remember thinking it’s not fair, but also wondering how or why God could allow people to have to continue living like this.

During the daytime, if there were large numbers of kids around, we brought coloring books and crayons, along with bubbles to play with the kids, while our adult leaders would talk with the children’s parents, inviting them to the church service.

One evening, a horrible storm came and we were all so worried that no one from the villages would come out to hear the gospel due to the weather. I have never seen land so flat, where I could stand at the top of a tiny hill and see for miles and miles. I could see the storm getting closer, watch the rain miles away while it was only starting to get cooler and darker where I stood. The lightening was a beautiful, yet worrisome, sight because I knew that if that storm kept coming, that meant no one would make it to the service.

We had a small utility trailer that was used to transport items used for the children’s service. Someone suggested that whoever wanted to, should gather in the utility trailer to pray for the service and pray that God would move the storm, so that it would pass over our area and that the Word of God could be shared with these people. I joined in that utility trailer and prayed so hard. All day I had spent falling in love with these people. My heart was so broken for them. I didn’t want to leave without them hearing the real reason we were there.

I still have pictures of myself and a friend from youth group, squatting on the ground playing with those kids who had never seen either crayons or bubbles before.

I think about that picture and remember that experience frequently. My heart still breaks for those precious children.

But more than crayons and coloring books, more than bubbles, more than time spent playing football (soccer) with them on their dirt fields, more than any of that, I yearned to share with them something that I knew would stay with them long after I left. I wanted them to know the One True Source of Living Water. I wanted them to know how very much God loved them, that He sent His One and Only Son to die for them. I wanted them to know that His love is unconditional, and He is full of grace and mercy. That He doesn’t care where you live or what you do for a living… He desires to give you a freedom and peace the world can’t give. I began to receive answers for the question of “why” I was born into the country and family I was born into~ so that I could come share the gospel with others! I felt I could redeem the unfairness of it all if I shared the gift that I had been given to others, rather than keeping it bound up within my own heart. 

I have no idea how long we were in there praying. I do know, though, that I never heard it rain. As we opened the door to walk out, my breath was literally stolen from me as I saw that the ominous clouds that were previously closing in on our area were now gone and were now replaced with just mild overcast. As if the storm just decided to turn around.

God’s Hand, or His Voice, moved that storm! Many people that night came to know the Lord as their own Savior! I remember thinking then, although I didn’t know the full meaning of it, that I had been walking on Holy Ground.

I remember being so moved with what I was able to be a small part of, that I praying to God while feeling God prompt my heart towards a life on the mission’s field, “Lord, if being a missionary is what You want me to do, then please show me. Please give me a sign.” Almost immediately God brought a literal road sign to my sight, with a name of a place on it that has forever been on my heart since then. The name of that road was the name of an actual country.

As time has gone by, as it seems to do so quickly and without warning, I haven’t yet been able to go to the place I feel God called me to go. I pray for those people and I feel a constant drawing to that area of the world.

Now, I am a wife and a mother. I am not able to pick up our world and go to that place (at least not, I feel, without my husband being 100% on board with the same calling). However, recently I was contemplating where I am in my life and where I thought I’d be… the dreams I have for doing BIG, BOLD Kingdom work for the Lord, and I found myself in a bit of a pity party {ok, more like a pit… period}. Let’s just be honest, I was complaining to God about where I am, what I am (not) doing, and how I feel so STUCK in the season in my life.

Once I finished with my pity party rant, God quietly spoke to me again and reminded me that THIS place, this season, right where He has me IS my mission field. I am working a job that I am not at all happy in, BUT I have the opportunity to help people when they are in the most vulnerable places, and I’ve already had multiple opportunities where I have shared God’s love with people that didn’t know about it, had chosen to ignore it, or had forgotten about it long ago.

Perhaps more important to me than the job I do as a career, is the role God has me in as wife and mother. Specifically, the calling He has called me to in homeschooling our precious children. The days are oh-so-long (and not at all easy), but the weeks fly by, making the years oh-so-short! Everytime I hear about something awful in the news involving the younger generation of today, I realize how blessed I am to be able to have such a flexible job that allows me to stay home to educate our kids during the week and provide the education my husband and I feel is most important. We want God to be the head of our school and lead us with how and what to teach our children. We know there are some awful things going on in the world, because sin is so prevalent in the world, but I’m thankful that our children get to learn of that from my husband and I, and take them straight to the Bible for answers, to see for themselves what God says about it all, rather than what the world would have our kids to believe, leaving Christ completely out of it altogether.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (NLT)

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

God reminded me, as He spoke to my heart about my mission field, that I AM doing Kingdom work for Him~ perhaps the most important work I could possibly do! I am influencing our two children who will go on to be adults and hopefully raise their own children to follow Him just as closely.

Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV)
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

When God helps change your perspective and helps you see your daily routine (what I used to see as being “stuck”) as Kingdom work for Him, it will renew your passion for life and for what He has you doing! I now pray,

Dear Lord, I am FAR from perfectly walking out the calling you have in my life, but help me to focus on this one thing: to forget the past [and all my past hopes and dreams that may not be what You want for me at this season in my life], but rather look forward to what lies ahead. Help me, Lord, to press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which You, through Christ Jesus, are calling me. (Philippians 3:13-14) Help me to remember that because I am Your masterpiece, and You have created me anew in Christ Jesus, I can do the good things You planned for me long ago (Ephesians 2:10) even if that “good thing” may look differently than what I think it is. Help me to accept, joyfully, any new mission fields You move me into throughout seasons in my life, and to be grateful for what you are teaching me in them. Because I am surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, Lord, help me strip off every weight that slows me down, especially any sin that easily trips me up. And, Lord, help me to run with endurance the race that You have set before me, remembering to always keep my focus on YOU, Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects my faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Father, you know that my desire is to fight the good fight for the true faith. Help me to hold tightly to the eternal life to which You have called me (1 Timothy 6:12), knowing that it is only through You, not myself, that I can do anything. For indeed I can do everything through You, Lord, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13) And Lord, finally, as You are my heavenly Father, You are also the Heavenly Father to my children and love them even more than I do! What peace and comfort that is to me. I pray that you will continue to lead and guide me in all the details of living each day of my life, especially in my role as a mother; nothing is too small for You. I pray that You will impart wisdom to my husband and I as we try to be good stewards of the gifts You have given us in these children. For my heart’s desire is to hear You say that You have no greater joy than to hear that Your children (and their children and their children, for generations to come!) are walking in the truth!! (3 John 1:4) Help me each day on this mission field, Lord. Forgive me for not seeing it as that before, and give me renewed strength, wisdom, and endurance to run this race well! In Jesus’ Name, amen!

Until Next Time,
Tricia

Tricia’s blog

Guest-Writers, {Life}

{Life} I Told a White Lie

Written By: 

I told a white lie. I was on a mission and no one would suffer harm. I claimed grace.

She had been admitted earlier in the day and it was after visiting hours. It was the only way to get past the guarded receptionist in the emergency room. So without any hesitation, I lied through my teeth. “I’m her daughter.”

Up the elevators we went, my hubby and I, on a mission. Her actual daughter, my friend, was three thousand miles away and this was a reconnaissance operation.  We were going to be her eyes and ears on the ground, in the zone. Her momma was in the hospital and I was gathering information in order to give my report.

Knowing that sweet Agnes suffered memory loss, we were a little apprehensive as we quietly approached her room. I was also a little anxious because, you know, I lied. Someone was bound to be on to my little charade, and I was sure that the truth would be exposed and someone would stop us at any moment and proclaim “You are NOT the daughter!”

Her eyelids fluttered open as we entered her quiet darkened room. Her beautiful white hair framed her face; her skin was like peaches and cream; she literally glowed with a joy I can’t explain –it was an innocence and sweetness that was childlike. She was lovely even with a hospital blanket tucked under her chin.

In the dim light she recognized us immediately. I’m sure it helped that my hubby “that one that smells good” smelled good as always. She was delighted to see us, and seemed a bit confused as to why she was in that place and not with her precious Tom.

We spoke briefly, assuring her that her beloved would return in the morning; I confessed my lie to her and we giggled. She honored me with the proclamation that she would happily claim me as one of her girls.

With her lovely southern charm, she thanked us for our visit and we were gone.  It was August 4th, my daddy’s birthday.  It was a sweet coincidence; and it was the last time I got to love on her.

On August 13th the message I didn’t expect arrived with a jolt. “Mom passed away this morning.”

Suddenly, the August 4th mission, that quick pop-in at the hospital was promoted. Every sight and sound of that evening rushed back and I held them close. It was as if I turned each over in my hand like a gem, examining and memorizing the details. They were precious.

Certainly her story belongs first to her family; her husband, her daughters, her grandchildren and great grandchildren. I am only one of many who loved this beautiful woman. But these memories are mine.

The glorious truth is that almost every day we are handed golden tickets…opportunities to be cast in the stories of life unfolding all around. The casting call is open and we are invited to fill the roles in the epic stories written by God himself.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?
And who will go for us? “And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah 6:8 NIV.

lorraine3

Guest-Writers, {Life}

{Life} The Broken Lamp

Written By:  Kate Motaung

He’d been in our home for a week.  We had a three-and-a-half year-old girl and an eighteen month-old boy when we added to our family through adoption.  My husband’s orphaned cousin was almost seven when he came to live with us.

Becoming the mom of a six-year-old was a steep learning curve, to say the least.  I’m talking sink or swim.

A week in, and he was bouncing a beach ball in the living room.  I did a quick visual scan of the room and a quicker mental calculation, and wagered that the beach ball wasn’t a major source of concern.  After all, there was really only one breakable thing within range: an ostrich egg lamp with Africa etched into the shell.  My mom bought it for me when she visited Cape Town for my 21st birthday, and I loved it.

It should be fine, I reasoned.  Besides, even if it gets knocked, ostrich eggs are hardy.  It’s a beach ball.  The lamp’ll be fine.

Crash.

Broken lamp.

Large pieces of ostrich egg shell decorated the carpet.

In that split second, the weight of my upcoming reaction flashed before me in full colour.  I was keenly aware that I had a choice, and my decision could have lasting implications.

The way I saw it, I had two options:

1) Get upset about the lamp, rant about how valuable it was to me, and make sure everyone knew how disappointed I was that it was broken; or

2) Share my disappointment in a reasonable, gentle tone, then shake it off as “no big deal,” because it’s just a lamp.  Besides, I hadn’t even told my son to stop bouncing the ball.

I’ve shared this before, but I’ll say it again: In our house, I strive to keep material goods in a healthy perspective.  In the big picture, if things get damaged and people are upset, I usually say, “I’m sorry that you’re disappointed. I would be, too.  But .. let’s try to remember that we can’t take it to heaven with us anyway.”

This particular incident, when the beach ball met the ostrich lamp, was a keen teaching moment in our home.  Whether I intended it or not, all three of my kids were learning by watching my reaction.  I’m thankful to report that the Lord really helped in those moments, and enabled me to diminish my disappointment.  He helped me show my kids that worldly possessions are only temporary.  They’re not eternal.

My kids’ souls, on the other hand, are eternal.

It was our new son’s first week in our home, and he soaked everything up like a sponge.  If I’d reacted in anger as soon as the lamp hit the floor, he would’ve soaked up the message that things are more important than people.  He would’ve filed away the unspoken assumption that I loved the lamp more than I loved him.

Looking back, I’m so grateful that God guided me through this pivotal parenting moment.  Six years later, when similar situations rise to the surface, I still think back to that day and use the mental notes as a guideline.  Obviously I don’t always get it right, but this memory often floats to the forefront of my mind and helps me keep my priorities straight.

What memorable, teachable parenting moments have you experienced, and what did you learn from them?

 Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa.  She is married to a South African and together they have three children.  Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications.  She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.  Kate’s memoir is scheduled to release through Discovery House in 2017.

Guest-Writers, {Life}

{Life} Fashion: What’s the Issue?

Written By: Hannah Kittle

I have a confession to make.  I am a hard core fashionista.  Put me into a mall with an unlimited budget and my phone and you probably wouldn’t see me again.  Recently, I went on a shopping trip with some of my girlfriends.  We went to a mall and several other stores and I was able to snag some really good deals.  However I came out of the trip feeling rather sad.

Why was I sad?  What was wrong with me?  I had gotten great deals and was with some of my dearest friends.  What was going on?

The answer was simply this:  other girls and some guys.  It wasn’t that they were being rude or mean.  In fact most of the people that I saw seemed quite pleasant and nice.  It was simply the way that their heart attitudes reflected in the way that they dressed.  Many of the girls were dressed in the latest styles, some of which were really cute.

Was there anything wrong with the fact that they were wearing the latest fashion?  No, of course not.  I had just bought a tunic\shirt dress in a store which is considered “in” and “fashionable” right now.  So, what was the problem?  The problem was that their clothing reflected what was in their hearts and what was in their hearts was anything but Christ-honouring.

All too often the debate on fashion in the Christian community centers around questions like, “Is it immodest to wear yoga pants?”, “Is it modest to wear skinny jeans?”, “Is there something wrong with wearing Aeropostale, Hollister, American Eagle, Pink, Abercrombie and Fitch, Forever 21, etc.?” and so many other questions.  While those questions are important to answer, there is one question we must answer first in order to make any decisions regarding our fashion choices.  We need to ask ourselves, “Am what I’m wearing reflecting my heart’s desire to honour God or is it reflecting my desire to fit into the world and look attractive to a guy?”

When evaluating tough questions, we need to take a step back away from the issue and look at what God has to say.  The Bible doesn’t explicitly give us guidelines on what to wear and that just makes it even harder, right?  If you’re like me, then you like to have everything in black and white and listed in good order.  So let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about fashion and hopefully bring a little more light to the issue.

Now by asking the fashion question, I’m not saying that we should be doing rigorous self-examination every time that we put on a pair of socks.  In the Bible, God talks about how He adorned Israel with, “…clothes…of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth…You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen.”  (Ezekiel  16:13)

In the Bible, we read how Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Dinah, Ruth, Abigail, Bathsheba, Tamar, the Proverbs 31 woman, the lady described in Song of Solomon,  and many others are described as beautiful.  In Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs), a good portion of the book is given to the description of the beauty of the woman.  The Bible talks much about the beauty of women and the adornment of them.  Jewellery and fine clothes are mentioned many times in the Bible, as both a praise and as a warning.

In Proverbs, we read how Wisdom is personified as a beautiful lady who wears fine clothing and jewellery while the adulterous woman is also described as beautiful and also wears fine clothing and jewellery but instead of her beauty coming from her integrity and grace, the adulterous woman is described as someone whose “…speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is as bitter as gall, sharp as a two-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.”  (Proverbs 5:3-5)

The adulterous woman is described as being dressed as a prostitute.  (Proverbs 7:10)  She is dressed in a very provocative manner which stems from her heart in which is only death and rebellion against God.  1 Corinthians 4:5 talks about how “…before the appointed time…He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motive of the heart.”

How we dress reflects our relationship with God.  When we are in a right understanding with God then the fashion, modesty, and dress issue fall into place.  When we aren’t in a right understanding with God, our judgment is clouded and our emotions tend to take over.  We attempt to justify wearing an outfit which turns out to be tempting to the opposite sex because of the attitude we show in the way that we wear our clothing.

The root of the problem isn’t whether or not we should be wearing the clothing that is “in” or “fashionable.”  It isn’t about whether or not we as Christian young women should wear yoga pants, leggings, or skinny jeans instead of skirts, or whether we should just wear dresses completely.  It’s about the heart.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.  Who can know it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9)  When our heart’s desire is to honour and please God, it will be reflected in our choice of clothing and even in the way we wear it.

The brands and “pants versus skirts” issue pales when we consider ourselves before God.  All that matters is how we stand before God. When we can stand before God with a clean conscience and say, “Yes, Lord.  My fashion choices are made with the ultimate goal of glorifying You,” then we can answer all the questions that come out of the fashion\modesty debate.

Fashion in and of itself isn’t bad.  It’s what we make of it and use it for that is the issue.  We have to make a choice to use it to glorify God.

End note:  By writing this I’m not attempting to tell anyone that it is more modest to wear pants versus skirts.  I’m not giving advice on what clothing or brand is more fashionable.  Your clothing choices and standards are your own.  Even within my own family, we have different tastes for clothes and different views on things.  The primary issue is for each of us to be able to stand before God and say with all honesty that we are seeking to honour Christ in what we wear.  

Guest-Writers, {Life}

{Life} 4 Keys to Letting Go and Trusting God.

Written By: Angela Howard

I’ve heard the same question repeated over and over from anyone facing a battle beyond their control: how can I genuinely let go and trust God?  Looking in the mirror, I’ve asked myself the same thing: will I trust God with everything?  It’s an internal tug-of-war.  My mind has no trouble acknowledging that God is good, faithful and powerful.  But, looking at the towering mountains before me I can struggle to put my faith into practice.  Don’t you?  Maybe you’ve wondered like me… Wouldn’t it be easier if I just solved this problem myself?  After all, I have some pretty great ideas!  Surely God has bigger problems!  When all is said and done, isn’t it all up to me?

The answer isn’t simple but as I choose to rely on God each time I encounter a trial, I’ve found some important keys to letting go and trusting God:

4 Keys to Letting Go and Trusting God

“Control is just an illusion.”

The above statement was made my son Ben when he was just a little boy.  I’m not gonna lie, it’s annoying when your kid is smarter than you.  Nevertheless, the truth has rung loudly in my ears, reminding me that grasping for control will only lead to disappointment.  We can’t control our circumstances, or other people, but we can control how we choose to respond.  Will it be with faith or fear?

I don’t know all the answers.  And that’s okay.

Do you love to problem solve?  I do.  Honestly, it’s one of my best assets.  Show me a challenge and I’ll find a way to overcome it.  Don’t tell me I can’t do it.  I’ll fix it; I’m relentless.  This skill has served me well–most of the time.  But sometimes there isn’t an answer.  Sometimes, we have to wait with confidence that God knows and sees the beginning from the end.

As for me, I look to the LORD for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me. Micah 7:7 (NLT)

Rest in God

Sharing a frustrating situation with my mom she asked me one important question: “Where does resting in God fit into the picture?”  I didn’t want to hear it.  I think I said something flippant, not willing to consider the root of the problem.  I wasn’t trusting God with my concerns and within a few short hours I had to admit the truth.  Could I rest in God even if I didn’t like the results of my situation?  The bottom line is this: God is with me.  I am never alone.  He will sustain me.  I don’t need to rest in my desired outcome; I need to rest in God.

God offers something better than our fantasy; he offers himself. – Mark Buchanen

Surrender in Prayer

Have you ever felt like you turned your problems over to God only to discover that you were just rehashing them again and again to anyone who would listen?  It might be time to pray a prayer of surrender, just as Jesus did before his death and resurrection.

Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. Luke 22:42 (NLT)

Finally, letting go and trusting God is a practice of faith that we will repeat throughout our lives.  This is not a one-time-lesson, but a decision we make for every challenge we encounter.

What would it look like for you to let go and trust God in your current trial?  How can you surrender your life to Him today?  I’d love to hear from you, please comment below.

About Angela:

Angela Howard is an author and minister who loves empowering people with authentic encouragement and Biblical perspective for their imperfect lives.  Her book: How To Love Your Crazy Family  is on Amazon and you can connect with her on her blog No Ordinary Days.

Guest-Writers, {Life}

{Life} Entrusting Your Children to God 

Written By: Karen Sweeney-Ryall

(BecomingMyBestMe.com)

Can you remember the absolute joy you felt when your baby was placed in your arms and, at the same time, your realization of the awesome responsibility you now had?  This precious, tiny being that you had nurtured in your womb was now living in our big, sometimes dangerous world.  Scripture tells us in Psalm 127: 3-5 “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them”.  God, their creator, entrusts our children to us to love, nurture, teach and protect.  We, in turn, must entrust them to God for their ultimate safety and destiny.

We watch over our children carefully: checking to see that they are breathing in their crib; trying to shield them from getting hurt as they learn to walk, climb and explore; standing at the bus stop to ensure they get off safely; learning about their friends and their homes.  But deep inside we know we can’t protect them completely.  We can only do our best and pray that is enough.

A paradox is that while we want to keep our children safe, we also need to give them opportunities to grow, explore and learn new things.  Part of raising them to be mature, independent people is to teach them to expand their experiences without fear and anxiety and how to make their own decisions (hopefully wise ones).  Children are born with an innate curiosity that increases their knowledge and understanding of how the world works.  They are driven to crawl, walk, climb and explore.  Each day is a step of learning, growing and becoming a more independent person.

One of the most difficult things I ever did as a parent was allow our daughter Natalie to travel to Guatemala on a mission trip at age 14.  I felt as though the fingers of my heart were painfully being pried from holding onto her.  Tears streamed down my face as I spoke to the visiting missionaries and entrusted her care to them.  But I believed that I needed to encourage her love for the Lord and for those broken and lost.  I had to trust that God would watch over her and protect her.  If fear tried to rise up, I prayed to God until peace replaced the anxiety and concern.

When she returned home a week later, I learned that while sitting on a bank, tossing stones, it seemed as though the stone was still in her hand.  After tossing again, she looked to discover that a scorpion was attached between her fingers.  Thankfully, she shook again and it flew off, without stinging her.  She and we, her parents, received a deep assurance that God kept her in His care.

Philippians 4:6-8 gives us this precious advice: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Take time today to meditate on how vast God’s love is (Ephesians3:17-19) and how faithful and trustworthy He is (2 Thessalonians 3:3; Lamentations 3:22-23 ).  This can help you to release your child into His loving care, while they are with you and when they are not.

Until Next Time,
~Karen

Guest-Writers, {Life}

{Life} Messy Motherhood: When to Throw In the Washcloth 

Written By: Alyse Gonyea

Much like a cluttered, overflowing kitchen sink with dishes caked with puréed sweet potato and pizza sauce, motherhood can be messy.

I was standing here at our kitchen sink washing the dishes (and can you believe I’ve already done two loads from this sink already today, and it still looks like this?!) while also browning some ground beef for dinner, while my 7-month-old sat (momentarily) contented in her high chair.

The struggle has been real lately.  My husband had one day off in the last month, and I haven’t gotten enough uninterrupted sleep the last few nights due to my infant’s recent sleep regression.  Coffee had become a major food group.  The days have been full and so have my sink and to-do list.  My patience, on the other hand, has not.  So, when my son repeated to me for the third time that our daughter made a silly noise (since I didn’t respond the first two times), I pretty much lost it.  As I was firmly trying to defend my stance of silence to my preschooler, he simply replied, “I just wanted to make sure you heard me.”

Wow.  While I was focused on scraping mashed avocado off of a bowl in my third attempt to finally clean all the dirty dishes, he just wanted to be heard.

Is that not too unfamiliar to what us “big-people” desire?  To be acknowledged by someone else that what we’re saying is important and heard?  At least I know I’m that way!  Since I didn’t respond the first time (or the second time), he just wanted to ensure I heard him.  That I valued what he had to say more than the sink full of dirty dishes.  And not to say that there isn’t a place for some quiet time (because heaven knows I need some moments of silence from my little extrovert sometimes), but I don’t want my kids to ever to think that something is ever too trivial to come to me with.  That I’m too busy to listen to what they have to say.  That’s a slippery (and dangerous) precedent to set, especially at only 4 years old.  I want them to know from the get-go they can talk to me about anything.  Silly noises his sister makes.  The (5th) Star Wars picture he just drew.  How he split his slice of cheese pizza in half at lunch.

Because when they know they can come to me about the little things, they know they can come to me about the big things.

So, I quickly prayed for patience and grace and put down the bowl I was scrubbing.  I walked into the living room where he was having lightsaber duels with his Lego characters, looked into his eyes with complete, undivided attention, and said to him, “I hear you.  I’m sorry for not listening to what you had to say.  Next time, I will respond to you so you know you’re heard.  Will you forgive me?”

And in his little grace-filled 4-year-old ways, he did.

For now, I will go back to try and get the dishes cleaned for the fourth time today.  But, I won’t forget the importance of knowing when to stop doing the dishes and put the washcloth down.

About Alyse:

Alyse is a (pastor’s) wife to her high school sweetheart and a mommy to two awesome kiddos.  She’s a former Labour and Delivery nurse who is now navigating the waters of being a stay-at-home-mom.  She’s a passionate enthusiast of coffee, cooking, and crafting.  She loves anything and everything Disney and may or may not believe she’s a Disney Princess.

Taylor's Posts, {Life}

{Life} A Positive Way of Living

Written By: Taylor Fast

I always park a few streets over from my placement for my school program.  At first I found this as a hassle because it was cold, snowing, sometimes rainy, and I had to walk further!  As time passed I realized that my attitude was negative and affected my day.  I mean, who cares if it takes me 10 minutes of walking to get to my destination?  I realized that this time gave me an awesome opportunity to meet with God.

During my walks, I’d be sure to spend time thanking God for my beautiful family, friends, and opportunities.  I also spent time thanking Him for the weather, the birds chirping, and any pleasant person that offered me a smile during my walk.  I’d also bring to God the needs on my heart that day, whether it was planning for a stressful meeting or asking God to guide my words as I prepared for a presentation or therapy session.  This whole outlook changed my attitude.  My mornings went from negative to positive.  From lacking God to coming to God with thankfulness.

I encourage everyone today to take a moment through your day to allow God’s presence to be known to you.  Whether you are walking, driving, doing dishes, or anything else to just spend time being thankful with God.  These tasks that we do everyday, we so easily do with our mind buzzing about the list of things that need to get done.  Close your thoughts, and focus on God.  This outlook has truly changed my attitude and has brought peace to me during my more stressful day.  I suggest that we all have a moment to be mindful of our God and of all the things we have to be thankful for.

God can do some amazing things even in the parts of your day that you usually go on autopilot for.

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14 (ESV)

Until Next Time,

~ Taylor

Kerrington's Posts, {Life}

{Life} Coffee Stained Rags

Written By: Kerrington Sweeney

From a youth leaders heart…
It was 7:54pm.  The students were just about to rush out of the youth room at 8pm, on a Wednesday night.  There I was attempting to begin tidying up the great big mess and thinking to myself what a full night we had, had.

As the trash all over the floors and the never ending amount of crumbs seemed to pile up…I had it in my mind, that I really wanted to be out of that room in 6 minutes like the rest of the crowd.  I took it upon myself to make sure that room would be all neat and tidy when that clock would strike, 8pm.  I went into what I like to call…”The cleaning zone.”  Scrambling to get everything done in a very short amount of time.

I was quickly removing extra chairs from the tables and vigorously wiping down the coffee station when…this young gal, came up behind me and asked if I was busy?  I replied with: “Yes! I am just trying to quickly clean right now! So I can leave!”  It was her response that broke my heart and brought me to tears…  “Oh that’s okay, I guess I can just ask you next week, when you’re not so busy.”

As she began to turn and walk away, the Holy Spirit nudged me to stop her.  I quickly turned around and said “I’m sorry, what’s your question my dear?”  She continued on to say, that she really needed someone to pray with her.  That she just needed a little heart-to-heart chat time with me.  So right then and there, I whipped my coffee stained rag that was occupying my hands aside, and we sat on the couch, in the crazy chaos of the youth room and had a beautiful moment together.  We prayed.  We laughed.  She then began to weep, as I spoke many words of life over her and encouraged her to press into Jesus.

Leaders, how often this truly does happen in ministry, heavies my heart.  What is occupying your loving hands and stealing your encouraging words today?  For me, it was that coffee stained rag and that messy youth room that was distracting me, from my purpose in that moment as a youth leader.

Leaders as a reminder to you, like the Holy Spirit reminded me, it’s not about the neat and tidy youth room until after 8pm, when you see your last students leave the room and the goodbye chats have been said.  I think at times, we lose sight of what truly is important in the church.  And Church, is truly about the youth and the kids.  Because always remember, those little souls, they are the future church.
Give up your coffee stained rags and go love on someone today.

Forgive often.  Live abundantly.  Love unconditionally.

Until Next Time,
~Kerrington

Kerrington's Posts, {Life}

{Life} Why God?

Written By: Kerrington Sweeney


Ever been in a painful situation and your first immediate reaction is to begin questioning God?  To be brutally honest with you, I actually recently was in one of those situations not long ago.

Something happens in our lives, a mistake is a made, something goes wrong, or something changes drastically in our lives and we immediately begin to blame and question God.

I can attest to that…because I do that, way too often.  Thank goodness for the ultimate grace of God, because if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing this today.

In life, we all will go through, difficult seasons and tough trials that at times will truly test our faiths and maybe even shake us to the very core at times.  In these moments of exhaust and disappointment, our automatic response is, “Oh God must be mad at me…this must be a punishment of some sort.” No, no and no!  God isn’t punishing us.  Think of Sarah in the Bible…

She walked through a – Season of Infertility.

Sarah was an intelligent, strong and capable woman.  When she married Abraham she made a decision in that special moment of covenant.  She established, as her mission in life the task of helping her husband fulfill God’s purposes for him.  Sarah was a loyal, submissive, and obedient wife and homemaker to her husband.  Even when Abraham passed her off as his sister, which landed her in Pharaoh’s harem, she did not object.  She went along willingly with her husband’s wishes.  Little did she know, that her faith would later on be tested and shaken to the very core of her being?

Sarah was barren.  Childless.  She was lacking in the ability to conceive.  Her infertility lasted for over 90 years.  Certainly through those years and years of waiting…she had given up hope of ever seeing her dream of motherhood fulfilled.  Sarah was looking at God’s promise from her limited, human perspective.  But the Lord used her life to unfold an extraordinary plan, proving that He is never limited by what usually happens.  For with God, ALL things are made possible.  Sarah struggled deeply in her faith and at times doubted God.  She had trouble believing God would fulfill His promises one day.

Psalm 113:9 says…

“He makes the barren woman to be a homemaker and a joyful mother of children.”

She walked through this season of her life, not trusting God…but do you blame her?  In those times, a wife without children…was almost shameful.  If I was Sarah, in those moments, I would probably would struggle deeply with feelings of worthlessness, like I had nothing to offer my husband…Like I couldn’t even give him the treasure of a family.

Waiting for God, to act in our lives may be the hardest task we ever face…It’s also true that we can become dissatisfied when God’s solution does not match our ‘Season expectations.’

Sarah’s life teaches us that when we feel doubtful or are afraid, we should remember what God said to Abraham,

Genesis 18:14 “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Even great men and women of faith have their moments of faithlessness.  After all that waiting…That Season of Infertility came to an end and she held the long awaited promise in her arms.  Sarah’s loyalty to her husband, Abraham resulted in her sharing in his blessings and she later became the mother of the nation of Israel.

Stay focused.  Stay positive.  God always knows the end results.

Until Next Time,

~Kerrington