Under Fire

Two years ago, I sat on a roof under a Haitian sky, listening to my teammates talk about our day in the village. Two mother daughter teams had joined our little band of young adults. As they sat listening to us process, they asked many questions.

I noticed a consistent theme as my friends began to answer. No matter who responded, the answer was the same one I would have given – same scripture, same biblical truth. I realized that despite our different ministry areas, we had all been trained by the same church and because of that, we were likeminded, able to give an account for the hope in us and why we believe what we believe (1 Peter 3:15).

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Fast-forward to a year later as I edited my manuscript, Shaken, for publication. One of my biggest fears was misrepresenting the Navy SEALs portrayed in my book. So I did my homework, asked questions, and while I learned the culture of the SEALs, I also learned a few things about my walk with the Lord and a few things that I believe should ring true of all believers.

1)   We are called to make war for our fight is not against flesh and blood. We are called to stand up for the weaker. We are called to be mighty (wo)men.

2)   We are called to work as a team, to be likeminded, having all things in common. I noticed that the SEALs may specialize in different skills, but their training is the same. They fight AS ONE.

3)   We are called to love as Christ loved. He loved us all the way to the cross, not hesitating to give up His life. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

This month, we will celebrate the fourth of July and the patriotism and sacrifice that come along with it. I pray that as we celebrate our freedom, we don’t lose sight of becoming mighty women of God, able, ready, and willing to give an account for the hope that is in us, no matter the consequences.

Kariss Lynch writes contemporary fiction about characters with big dreams, hearts for adventure, and enduring hope. Shaken, her first book in the Heart of a Warrior series, released in February 2014. A former freelance writer, she now works as the writer for the communications ministry at a church in Dallas.

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Summer Bucket List

Ah, Summer. For many it brings relief, no more hurried mornings, no more homework, no more demands of a schedule. For others, sheer panic. What will I do with these kids all day? Every. Single. Day. For me as a homeschooling mom, summer is a mixed bag of emotions. While I am certainly ready for schedules to ease, co-op to end, and to have a break from daily lessons, there’s a bit of panic that sets in. See, I am a structure girl. Not in a “make endless lists or cute charts via Pinterest” kind of way, but more in the way of “I need to know we have a loose plan and some structure.” I need things to look forward to, otherwise cranky, restless momma sets in, which is not good for any in the Duncan household. Aside from our normal daily swimming, camps, VBS, and Bible study, I have decided to create a “Summer Bucket List” with the girls, together we can shape what our summer will look like.

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Here are some of our ideas:
Drive in movie, Dallas Farmers Market (multiple trips for Canton peaches), neighborhood walks to get La Michoacana ice cream, bike rides through the Bishop Arts district, popcorn for dinner at least once (who am I kidding, it will be more than once), see a Rangers game, Steel City Pops, Klyde Warren splash park, tour the Dallas Museum of Art, ride the trolley on McKinney Avenue, eat from a food truck, Dallas Symphony Orchestra in the park, as well as our annual family trip to Pensacola Beach Florida.

Many of these activities are little or no cost. The goal isn’t so much the list itself but rather creating sweet memories with our family. One of the most cherished pieces of wisdom I have received from an older, wiser mom was to create and invest in making memories with our girls. The days are long but the years are short. My heart’s desire is that each of my girls know we value fun as a family and praise God for the abundant life He gives us. Ecclesiastes 8:15 says, “So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.”

About the Writer:
Born in Kentucky, growing up in Arkansas, and now living in Texas, has given this southern preacher’s daughter many unique experiences. Whether setting a table for a new friend, preparing a meal for family, or sharing the love of Christ with a wounded soul, Nesli does it with passion and style. Married to her best friend, a mom to three precious girls, and a life long learner of Gods word, Nesli is excited to share her journey.

Hey, Duck!

Every other weekend, we have the pleasure of hosting our two-year-old niece. Our “baby” is seventeen, so it’s been a while since we had to think of ways to wear out a little person who seems to have an unlimited supply of energy!

Somehow, we never seem to be able to use an entire loaf of bread, and it literally piles up in the pantry until I have six to eight half-eaten loaves occupying the shelves. The good news is we figured out that ducks don’t mind old bread and eat it like it’s fresh from the oven! So, off to the lake we go, little person in-tow!

When her feet touch the pavement, she personifies the phrase hit the ground running! She takes off in the direction of the water with her uncle following behind yelling, “Wait! Wait! WAIT!” and I think, I’ll get two for the price of one in this deal. But, it’s too late. She sees the prize. Ducks!  And, she’s got to get her hands on one. NOW!

“Hey!” she yells.

One by one, they scurry away as quickly as their webbed feet can carry them.

“Here, Baby,” her uncle explains, “Give them bread — that’ll make them stay.” Demonstratively he breaks off pieces, throws them to the ground, and slowly they come back — pecking niblets while keeping their eyes on a certain two-year-old.

He hands her a slice; she pinches off nearly microscopic pieces and throws them to her orange-billed friends.Duck

Apparently, this process is moving too slowly, so she yells, “Hey, Duck!” and sprints in their direction waving their meal in her hand. This time, they take flight and soar across the lake and land like little white boats atop the water out of her reach.

This scenario repeated itself until the ducks finally decided it was better to starve than be given a heart attack by a 3-foot human.

If only we could get her to understand the bread, minus the yelling, would bring the ducks to her feet. And, if only the ducks could understand what she was offering was good and life-sustaining. The noise drowned out the sensibility of that notion.

How often are we like that with God, forgetting the delicate balance that man does not live by bread alone, but rather, by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”? As stated in Deuteronomy 8:3, we need bread to live; but we also need God’s Word to be our life, our source, and our portion forever.

Our intention was to take our sweet girl to expend some energy, have fun, and be the hand of God for those ducks. We got to do all of that. However, the lesson I took home was the beautiful reminder that even when the busyness of my life sometimes drowns out the voice of God, He is faithful “to never leave or forsake me” as He provides our needs and daily bread (Deut. 31:6).

We left the bread strewn across the grass for the ducks. A little girl fell asleep in her car seat on the way home. We created a wonderful memory for our family, and our precious Father reminded me that His Word is “not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life” (Deut. 32:47).

Operation: Fun in the Sun— ACCOMPLISHED.

About the Writer:
Nicole considers herself fantastically spoiled by the three men in her life: her loving God, her darling husband, and her uber handsome son. She loves road trips, makeup, making things look pretty, and making up words like “coffeelicious” — which means a DELICIOUS cup of coffee in “Nicole.” Her dream is to live in the country, on at least ten acres of land, and own a tan horse with a blonde mane that she will name “Blondie” — even if it’s a male.

Learning is Fun

As summer kicks into gear, our family will struggle with the absence of routine and structure.  With three children who have autism, routine is our friend.  During the summer though, everything changes.

School schedules are different.  Therapy schedules change. Bedtimes are disrupted by late sunsets. Bible study classes get put on hold. Quiet times are not so quiet.  Through all these changes, what I have learned is the Lord is good and in spite of all the distractions, He still teaches me something big every summer.

My routine, my schedule, my daily list all seem to function so well during the school year.  That’s primarily because I am focused on the Lord.  He is at the top of my list each day.  He’s the last thing on my mind each night.  But summer comes, and I’m distracted.  It’s been a learning curve for me to understand that the Lord is the same as He was in May as He is in July.  So why don’t I feel like He is?  It’s not because He’s changed, it’s because I’ve changed.

I often mistake the Lord’s silence for absence.  I expect Him to speak directly to me when I speak to Him.  I expect answers to be clear.  So why is it that my biggest lessons have come during times where I felt the Lord has been silent?  Why are these lessons typically during the summer?

Learning is Fun
Summer isn’t just about fun and games.  It’s about growing in the Word, learning from the Lord, staying plugged into your Bible and friends who will encourage and pour into you.  I know this summer will be chaos in the absence of our routine but learning about God’s perfect plan for my life will be a challenge, it will be full of growing pains.  But as long as I stayed connected to Him I will be okay.  I am most thankful “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Let the fun begin!

About the Writer:
Tamie is a stay at home wife and mommy of three kids with autism. She is a member of First Baptist Dallas and enjoys spending time hanging out at home with her family. Tamie has a servant’s heart and it passionate about encouraging other woman in their daily walk with the Lord.

Tamie’s personal blog is about her journey rearing three kids with autism and the lessons the Lord is teaching her along the way.

http://piecesofgraceblog.wordpress.com

Wherever He May Go

Fun is definitely a matter of personal preference. Being a fitness instructor, I find creative takes on the traditional plank pose to upbeat music fun. I like when my muscles shake, and I often wake up in the middle of the night with new exercise variations to bring the next day to our adult “play-time.” I also find great joy in downsizing. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as that feeling of accomplishment from cleaning out the refrigerator, a room, my computer files, or especially from shaving off unnecessary clutter from my life. Anyone who knows me well, knows that there have been multiple occasions when I sold or got rid of everything I owned with the exception of two heavy suitcases that I most always wished were consolidated into just one. My perspective on earthly wealth shifted dramatically when I, on one occasion, panting after a train in India (which never really even stopped), had to choose which of those two suitcases to leap on board with.

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Baggage comes in all shapes and sizes. The hardest things to release may not be your “stuff,” but it may be things of your past. Former priorities, regrets, empty goals, false beliefs, destructive habits, toxic relationships, prideful persuasions—these are the things that tend to follow us around like shadows, casting their dark hue on a sunny day. Or, it may be expectations for the future that weigh us down in the present. The flowery aspirations of love, success, family, growth, progress, etc. can easily become more cumbersome than the burdens of the past when God calls us to patiently wait for their fruition.

In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” He knows what we need (and want); He has things taken care of.

So what is left, you may ask, if we have only one suitcase, the past holds no power over us, and the future is void of self-determined expectations? Fun! At least that is how I am starting to see it. If Jesus called the disciples to leave everything and follow him, couldn’t we see that same challenge for our own lives as a motivation to let go of the things that don’t fit into His plan? Ephesians chapter 4 shows me a great place to start in regards to knowing what to keep and what to get rid of.

If fun is what you seek, look to what Jesus promised: adventure, unknown, treasure, and purpose. He even lets us give Him the heavy bags so we can keep up with Him (Psalm 55:22). To quote the lost boys in Disney’s Peter Pan, “We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader. We’re following the leader, wherever he may go.” They knew how the make following fun! Why should it be any different for us?

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 Christ. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to raising her daughter to know and love the Lord. 

Lyndsay has a blog dedicated to sharing and celebrating the work of Christ through her experiences as a missionary, world traveler, knowledge seeker, and recipient of God’s lavish grace: http://www.singwenowofchristmas.wordpress.com

Let the Fun Begin…

Summer always signified a trip to one of my favorite places on earth. It wasn’t anywhere extravagant, but I always experienced adventure.

Picture this:

A condo located in a quiet neighborhood near Lake Travis. Crooked trees stand as sentries just outside the door surrounded by a rock bed. Step through the doors and you can smell AC and the faint scent of chlorine. A tapestry from some country across the pond hangs above the first staircase landing. Three kids cram into a room with two double beds and enough room for an air mattress. A photo of Raider Red hangs above one of the beds, a foreshadowing of my eventual four-year stint in Lubbock.

Kariss summer funEvery morning, dry corn draws deer up to the patio where towels and swimsuits air dry. We sneak close to the deer as they eye us while munching their tasty treat. Fawns wander on wobbly legs. We even find one, fresh from birth on the porch of an empty house.

A glistening blue pool calls to us behind an iron gate, and we can’t wait to splash in. More than water, it’s memories – learning to swim, learning to dive, munching popsicles or fruit, laughter, summer friendships.

We spend every fourth at the town parade and watch fireworks from the upstairs patio. Every evening is spent building puzzles, cooking dinner, playing games, and watching all the Rocky and Sister Act movies.

To me, this week of the summer always signified a time of retreat. Psalm 46:10 says to “Be still” or “cease striving.” That’s a hard thing for this girl raised in Dallas. But with stillness comes perspective. And it always came at the condo. It’s where I surrendered my life to Christ. It symbolizes sun and uninterrupted family time. It symbolizes my childhood outside the city where I could breathe and explore. A brief moment of rest to recharge with Jesus.

This month, we will share our summer stories. We pray you will take moments to pause from the yearly craziness and see this time as an opportunity to grow in Christ. So without further ado, let the fun begin…

Kariss Lynch writes contemporary fiction about characters with big dreams, hearts for adventure, and enduring hope. Shaken, her first book in the Heart of a Warrior series, released in February 2014. A former freelance writer, she now works as the writer for the communications ministry at a church in Dallas.