Lost Laughter

boys-on-beach“I don’t know what your laugh sounds like.” These are the words my 5-year-old son said to me the other day. I brushed it off when he first said it. Of course he knows what my laugh sounds like. He was just being silly. Right? When was the last time I laughed with him?

“Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you had then?”  Galatians 4:15a.(NLT)

I have joy. Do my boys see it? Unfortunately, they probably do not. They don’t see the light-hearted, joy-filled, easy-going, full of laughter me. They see this stressed out, overly frustrated, high strung, over committed shell of a mom. Where did the real me go? In my mind, I’m the mom I want to be, but, in reality- I’m barely surviving, struggling to keep my head above the waves of our hectic lives and full schedules. And I’m not doing a quarter of the “Things Good Moms Do” to have well rounded, happy, morally sound children, or whatever is trending now. Read to them, get them into sports, let them create, challenge them, let them read to you, listen to them, feed them (at least 3 times a day, every day), encourage them, help them with homework, humble them, comfort them, set boundaries for them, teach them manners, pray with them, teach them how to become responsible and productive members of society…and the list goes on. My own personal list-the one in my head-goes on. I dwell on so many expectations, so many ways I am failing as a mom. I have hidden my joy under this list. I have prioritized this list over my joy- over my kids’ joy.

Feelings of guilt and inadequacy are red flags. I need to check my focus. Am I living by faith in Christ or by trying to exceed the expectations and demands of this world? I seem to spend all day on the toils of life, without enjoying the rewards of the toil.

“What profit is there to the worker for that in which he toils? … moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor,—it is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:9,13

Without God, I find no relief from the toils of life and have no direction to guide me through life’s complications. Satisfaction and joy are lost.

With God, I realize that each day is a gift. I can find pleasure in what I am doing now because this work comes directly from God’s hand. He has given me this life, my husband, my children, and our home. He will also give me the strength to complete the work before me and the wisdom to discern priorities. I will serve Him through my work here at home and through the rearing of my boys. I will find satisfaction and joy, and I will laugh again.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

About the Writer:
Meghan is a former art teacher who feels blessed to now be a stay-a-home mom to her two boys. She loves volunteering at her sons’ school and with the First Baptist Dallas Women’s Ministry and First Impressions Team. She is passionate about art, cooking, working out, and playing volleyball.

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Lessons From the Garden

When my husband and I moved into our first home together, I was eager to garden. I knew that it would take a little hard work, but I was enthusiastic about the opportunity that each dry, forgotten flowerbed carried. From a distance, I had watched how my mother’s garden developed over time into a beautiful oasis. Every year she would add a few new plants, and continue to tend to those she had already established.

And so, with this quaint memory, I began to work on my own garden. I first began with a charge of energy. Daily I would spend time turning over the soil with my hands, fertilizing and preparing it for the plants to come. By transplanting cuttings from family members’ gardens and gathering a few freebies on Craigslist, my garden slowly began to take root.

After just a few years in our home, I have watched a story take place in our garden that can be reflective of our lives in so many ways. Within a year of being in our home, my eagerness to garden was replaced with the sleepless nights that arrive with a new baby. It was no longer my priority. The plants became an afterthought and weeds began to set in.  ‘At least they are green’ I would tell myself as I walked past the window.

In looking back on my mother’s garden, I see now that it was with continual and tender effort that she reaped a beautiful vision for all to enjoy. She cultivated her garden daily, and her diligence and hard work was evident. In order to grow and develop in our spiritual lives, we must continually water, prune and tend to the gardens of our hearts.

So, here are just a few of the spiritual lessons that I’ve gleaned from the garden.

  1. Some plants will take over your garden, so be cautious what you choose to plant.

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Galatians 6:8-9

                   2.  Pruning allows the plant to focus its energy and growth in fewer places.

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2

                    3. Gardening takes patience first before you will begin to see the rewards.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

Eight in 2018 – Virtues to Sow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will never forget the time I heard my daughter use one of my slang words when she dropped something getting out of the car at only three years old.  It was not necessarily a bad word, but one I used frequently whenever something unexpected happened, yet it was shockingly inappropriate for a young girl, and, honestly, for me as well.  In fact, this was one I had learned from my grandmother many years earlier. Our minds are like a computer, what goes in, will eventually come out.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  Galatians 6:7

As an adult, I have heard preached more than once “you reap what you sow, more than you sow, later than you sow”.  If we sow gossip, others will gossip about us, if we sow immorality, we may see our children live immorally, or if we sow an undisciplined lifestyle and recklessly squander our finances, we may reap the stress of debt and lack of necessities in life.  On the other hand, if we give of our tithe, we sow blessings. He promises to open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing until it overflows (Malachi 3:10).  With these thoughts in mind, here are 8 virtues which we might try to exercise for 2018.

Dr. David Jeremiah reminds us if we are not growing in God’s Word we can become incomplete, ineffective, insincere, and nearsighted; and we can also lose our Christ-like perspective. When it gets right down to it, as we read His transforming Word, His convictions are motivating our actions.  It is not just focusing on doing the right thing, but allowing the Holy Spirit to work using His Word to “grow us up”.  Then we will be more likely to speak the truth through our deeds, and our testimony will be strong and clear. Reap his Word in 2018 to sow righteousness and bring glory to God, in order to be a shining light in a dark world.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2

About the writers:
Diana is a former high school teacher, Sunday School teacher, and Women’s Bible Studies teacher. For many years a stay-at-home wife and mother, she is now also a grandmother to three young Oklahomans, who call her “Gigi” and is serving as editor for Yada Yada.

Beverly has been an administrator, educator, and Sunday School teacher; now is a wife, mother, and grandmother, who currently serves at First Baptist Dallas as Coordinator for Yada Yada.

Sleeping With the Enemy

O Lord, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me. Psalm 3:1

How many are rising up against you? Have you ever felt that there was an army surrounding you with one mission: your destruction?  David did.  In fact, he didn’t just feel it; it actually happened.  Was it his fault?  Yeah, ultimately, it was the consequence of his sins with Bathsheba and against Uriah, as well as his complacency when his daughter Tamar was raped and ruined by his son. Those are heavy-duty sins in our eyes, but there is no difference to God between those sins and our little “embellishments” here and there or reading that trashy romance. David, however, looked at his sin and confessed it before God and repented. Not only that, but he forgave himself and moved past it, in his life and in his incomparable relationship with the Lord. That’s right, ladies:  he moved on! Because of his ability to do that, he was able to pray this prayer of trust in God when he was at a staggeringly low point.

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the Lord with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. Psalm 3:3-4

If you haven’t yet felt a rising up against you, you probably will.  Psalm 3 can sustain you and give you the hope you need until the Lord gives you rest in the midst of the battle and lifts up your head to see your victory that is in Him. So those gossipers’ tongues, let them wag on, but don’t be afraid to drag their dark lies into the light of Truth. That wayward child, pray until he or she wanders back.  Don’t hesitate to get before that Throne repeatedly, boldly and loudly for our Father is a loving Father who cares more for that child than you can imagine. That uncaring husband, love him to the Lord, and count each rejection or snide remark as fertilizer for that wonderful time that is coming when he turns to the Lord. If they are all happening at the same time, you just get your trusted prayer partners set to battle with you in prayer that you will see His Glory through your circumstances because His Glory is your glory.  That’s the Awesome, Loving, and Immutable God that we serve! He hasn’t changed one whit since David’s time and He’s not going to change EVER. Read that Psalm, memorize it and live on in the promise of your salvation.  Amen!

About the Writer:

Cindy loves being an RN, wife, mom, and CiCi (that’s a grandmother but I’m way too young and hot for normal terminology) to one sweet little 5 year old girl. She loves the Lord with all her heart and wants to serve Him with gladness til her dying breath. Cindy plans on starting seminary very soon. She can hardly wait for Wednesday and Sunday to roll around so she can sing with the choir and experience just a sliver of the joy we’ll have when we all get to Heaven!

Put Your Jesus Where Your Mouth Is

When I look back on the times in my life I have found myself in a deep, dark hole, the path into that hole almost always started with something I said. I have allowed my thoughts to cross the barrier of my lips and pave a path to destruction.  I’ve done this so many times I’ve lost count, and yet it’s possible to effectively communicate without saying a word.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

If the skies can communicate so clearly without speaking, why do I allow my mouth to get me into so much trouble?  The thoughts come – thoughts that lead straight to pride and judgment. I instantly see what someone, usually my husband, has done that isn’t pleasing in MY eyes and the thoughts hurl me down that path. When I follow those thoughts and allow them to come out of my mouth, the result is never pleasant. I’ve done this for years, and then I was finally shown a better way. That way involved me moving over to God’s side and listening to His way.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.  
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. 
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Psalm 19: 7-8

That wasn’t fun at first. It’s still a daily struggle. It takes discipline, which is not a word I like to hear. The thoughts come a hundred times a day, and I have a split second to stop them from coming out of my mouth. What God has shown me is that, if I will take time to line up my words with my heart, and align my heart with what He would have me say, then the result will always be more peaceful. His words lead to peace, not into that hole I’ve so often made my home.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

These words have been expressed as a prayer at the beginning of almost every Sunday school class I’ve attended over the past two years. It took me a long time to understand truly what they mean.  It took discipline and experience to learn that holding back the words until they were no longer mine but His would bring the greatest peace in my life I ever imagined. Now I realize that in addition to keeping him in my heart, sometimes the best place for Jesus to be is right behind my lips.

About the writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.

Broken Pieces

The evening had finally arrived for me to walk across my high school gymnasium to receive my diploma. As the speakers began to reminisce over the 1985 graduating seniors, my mind was flooded by countless memories. Yet, as I sat with my classmates on that Friday evening, I could have never imagined the paths I would one day travel, nor the heartache, tragedy and loss that would occur.

Moving forward years later, instead of pondering fond memories, I would find myself at the end of a course, sobbing uncontrollably. I had blown it in the most horrific way. With my life in shambles, the mere thought of God ever wanting me again seemed unattainable. I would quickly learn, however, that God’s love for me was not dependent on me. My Shepherd came to rescue, redeem and restore. (Luke 15:3-7)

I soon came to experience firsthand that God never despises a broken person nor does He turn His back. He took the shattered pieces of my life and began to put them back together again, all for His glory. 

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.”  (Psalm 147:2-3)

Point to Ponder: A person never has to remain in the same shape brought on by sin he or she is in because Jesus came to redeem sinners!

At times, when an individual gets off course, the enemy will immediately whisper, “That’s it, you have out-sinned God’s ability to forgive.” Yet we must remember that God’s Word always trumps the enemy’s whispers. We must align our thinking according to God’s truth.

 

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:1-5)

Whatever we may envision as the end, God sees a new beginning. While we may see only the pain, God sees the purpose. He will turn a trial into a blessing and a mess into a message. Although His rescue plan may include voyages we never envisioned, we can know with certainty He will never leave broken pieces unassembled. He loves us too much.

Prayer: Lord thank you for Your willingness to restore and rebuild shattered lives. Thank you for sending Jesus to save the lost, to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up wounds.

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.

Letters to God from a New Mom

As a new mom I found a closeness with God during those wee hours of the morning when I was nursing and rocking my son back to sleep. In the quietness of the house, God’s voice seemed ever-present and comforted me through the [still ongoing] emotional journey into this new foreign role called ‘motherhood’. I was desperately seeking an understanding of my purpose and an assurance of my capabilities.

Often during these times, I would focus my mind on passages that declared God’s might and power, passages that spoke of His faithfulness and His provision, or passages that displayed His unending compassion and grace. Then with a deep sigh, I would continue to rock slowly and whisper my thanksgiving. I knew His promises.

These words that slipped past my lips often fell into a specific cadence that was deeply personal and sounded almost like a letter to a good friend. Because, after all – that’s what they were. So below is a passage that I wrote early one morning when I was exhausted and needed comfort. I was drawn to Psalms and Isaiah, reminding me that our ever-present God is full of love and ready to tuck me under His wing.

Lord, I feel so alone. So tired. And so insignificant in this endless cycle of the newborn cries. But I know you’re there. Thank you for your never-ending compassion towards me.

 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:6-8)

 Your scriptures tell us that you have measured the waters in the hollow of Your hand and marked the span of the heavens. That you have weighed the mountains and calculated the dust on the earth. (Isaiah 40:12)

 You are mighty beyond comprehension, and yet here you are beide me, fully present and loving. You know every tear shed through these trying days. But I rest knowing that my name is written on the palm of your hand. (Isaiah 49:16)

Thank you, I love you.

I miss the closeness that I found in those dark and quiet moments. The business that so easily consumes our days can drown out these opportunities. In looking back over the last 18 months, I realize that the rocker has become my most common meeting place with God. I still find myself there in that chair feeling stranded and at the mercy of my child, but once I settle in and he nods off, I find God waiting patiently for time alone with me. I am fully focused on Him, and He’s ready to talk.

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

God Sees You

A writing venture was soon to begin, as I pulled into a vacation lodge in Alabama. I was both intrigued and overwhelmed by all that awaited me. As I proceeded with the production, my mind became captivated with the mere thought of finishing strong while the energy to continue was fading. Time was running out and so was my joy. However, as I continued to work hard on the job at hand, God was working intensely on the heart within.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 NASB

After days of writing, I knew I needed to remove myself from the room and take a ride in my car. Yet what I thought would be a time to clear my mind, God knew would be an opportunity to calm my heart.

I was completely engrossed by a sermon on the radio as I pulled up beside a boat dock that over- looked a beautiful river. Tears began to stream down my face, as I sat there alone, listening and praying. God knew that submerged deep within me were issues that needed resolving regarding my life.  As I poured my heart out to Him, I was deeply touched by the mere fact that His eyes saw me. I was in the middle of nowhere, tears pouring, yet my Lord took notice, just as he did for Sarai in the Old Testament.

Sarai, unable to conceive a child, wanted desperately to have a family. While taking matters into her own hands, she resolved to give her Egyptian maid, Hagar, to her husband, Abram in hopes of obtaining children. Yet immediately after Hagar conceived, a great friction took place between the two women, and Hagar ran away.

While traveling through the desert, Hagar found herself sitting down by a well, broken, rejected, and afraid. No sooner had she arrived than an angel of the Lord met her there. As He began to encourage her heart, she was engulfed with joy by the mere fact that God took notice of where she was and of what she was going through. She later sighed, “You are a God who sees.”

Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees.” Genesis 16:13 NASB

Just like Hagar, I too was overtaken by the goodness and mercy of God. And even though my journey was producing discouragement, earnestly imploring me to quit, God met me where I was.

Discouragement and hopelessness will always beg for entrance to your life. Yet when you allow God to flip on His light switch to your heart, you will be amazed at what transpires. As He takes center stage of your spirit. Hopelessness will quickly bow out.

There is nothing which you and I will ever face that God will not notice. God met Hagar sitting by a well. He met me sitting by a river. And He will meet you wherever you are today.

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.

 

 

 

 

 

Failing Under Pressure

I don’t like to fail…I still fail though. Years back I attended one of the top 10 universities of the world at the time. I was the only paying foreigner in my group of peers. Everyone else were elite students from all over Russia who had worked their whole lives to be among the bright-eyed geniuses who were awarded entrance into Moscow State University Lomonosov. I felt dreadfully out of place, but was determined to do my best. I love to study and love to learn, but my language skills couldn’t begin to compete or suffice. Remnyova Marina Leontyevna, the Dean of our program, said something that stuck with me, “Students, there is talent and there is hard work. Hard work will get you further.” I took that to heart and have since tried to do my absolute best to achieve the desired results in almost every area of my life.

 When it comes to my character though, I see time and time again that I do not have the power within me to be who I want to be—to be like Christ, the purest, most loving man to walk the earth. I can decide all kinds of things that I want to do or be that seem to resemble Him, but then not have the ability to carry them through long-term.

 Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you fail under pressure, your strength is not very great.”

 Agreed. I’m weak. Not to say I don’t try, but it’s still not enough. Like salvation. I can try my whole life to please God, but it wouldn’t be good enough (Eph. 2:8-9) for Him to receive me. Thank God for Christ, who allows me entrance into a relationship with God that I don’t deserve otherwise. Thank God for His Holy Spirit who is faithfully accomplishing in me what I can’t make happen by praying more, reading more, giving more. Thank God that it is His power in me that frees me from the high expectations I have for myself that I can’t fulfill. Thank God that sanctification (the process of becoming more Christ-like), just like salvation, has more to do with Him than me. It has more to do with HIM doing and me accepting what He decides makes me look more like Him. That’s a very peaceful message. In the words of a famous missionary to India, Amy Carmichael:

IN ACCEPTANCE LIES PEACE
He said, “I will forget the dying faces;
The empty places,
They shall be filed again.
O voices moaning deep within me, cease,”
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in forgetting lieth peace.

He said, “I will crowd action upon action,
The strife of faction shall stir me and sustain;
O tears that drown the fire of manhood, cease.”
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in endeavor lieth peace.

He said, “I will withdraw me and be quiet,
Why meddle in life’s riot?
Shut be my door to pain.”
Desire, thou dost befool me, thou shalt cease.
Not in aloofness lieth peace.

He said, “I will submit; I am defeated.
God hath depleted My life of its rich gain.
O futile murmurings, why will ye not cease?”
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in submission lieth peace.

He said, “I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God tomorrow will to His Son explain.”
Then did the turmoil deep within him cease.
Not vain the word, not vain;
For in Acceptance lieth peace.

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

A Woman Who Fears the Lord

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30

Recently, I was part of a group of women “of a certain age” waiting to have our pictures taken for a brochure. The Texas sun was almost directly overhead as we gathered outside, searching for the most flattering angles and backgrounds. A couple of us opted to wear our sunglasses for the photos, a technique every woman knows can erase at least 5, if not 10 years. Much to our dismay, the sunglasses were nixed and we stood bare-eyed in all our middle-aged glory, squinting and smiling for posterity. The fact that the purpose for the photo shoot was a BIBLE study brochure didn’t lessen one bit our concern with how we would appear on those glossy 5 by 7 pages. After all, God reminds us that while He looks on the heart, men (and especially women getting their pictures taken) look on the outward appearance. (1 Samuel 16:7)

The Hebrew word “beauty” in Proverbs 31:30 literally means “a breath, or vapor”. Just as quickly as our makeup evaporated under the hot midday sun, so fades the “beauty” of what the world considers important. Those of us who have seen more than three decades know how literally we are outwardly “wasting away”. Yet, hopefully, we are inwardly being renewed day by day…IF we are fearing the Lord instead of fearing growing older. (2 Corinthians 4:16) For, truly, this is vanity: the preoccupation with our outward appearance, which is destined to be left behind once we step into the timelessness of eternity anyway.

The gods of this world: money, prestige, power, lots of social media followers, fame, physical beauty, and looking forever young are constantly vying for our worship and calling us to “fear” them, to be in awe of the created instead of in awe of the Creator. Psalm 1:1 tells us that we are blessed when we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. It’s a good idea to check from where we are allowing our hearts to be most influenced. Elisabeth Elliot wrote in her devotional “Keep a Quiet Heart”: “Be cautious when the advice given makes you feel comfortable when you know you’re really wrong.” But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised”  . . .  and she “smiles at the future (v.25) . . . laugh lines and all!”

About the Writer:
Nan Haines is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.