Cups of Cold Water

I had been a mom for one whole month- long enough to be exhausted and to doubt that I was doing anything right.  That’s when the first note appeared in my mailbox.  About seven months earlier, my best friend, who lived out of state, gave birth to her firstborn.  Knowing that I was pregnant, she celebrated every month of her newborn daughter’s life by writing a letter of encouragement to me.  On my son’s one-month birthday, the first note showed up at just the right time saying, “I know you are exhausted, but you’ve made it a whole month! You’re doing awesome! Keep up the good work!”  And every month after that another note appeared until his first birthday.  Her thoughtfulness and encouraging words gave me confidence each month.  She didn’t have any profound wisdom to share; her notes just were a way of saying “I see you.  You can do this with God’s help.  I’m praying for you.”

Proverbs 25:25 Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.

Oh how her notes were like cups of cold water for my weary soul!

In the book of Acts, we find a man named Joseph who was renamed Barnabas by the apostles. Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement,” and so he was.  If it weren’t for Barnabas, Paul may not have become the greatest missionary of the early church.  Acts tells the story of how the apostles were afraid to meet with Paul, knowing his history of persecuting Christians.  Yet Barnabas literally “took hold of him,” brought him to the apostles and told Paul’s story for him.  What an encouragement that must have been to Paul!  To have another person speak on his behalf and believe that his story was worth telling.

Throughout Paul’s first two missionary journeys, Barnabas was his constant companion.  The Bible doesn’t record any of Barnabas’s words, although it does mention that he spoke boldly for the Lord.  Instead, Scripture records over and over again that Barnabas was with Paul, persecuted with him, traveling with him, and (based on his nickname) encouraging him. Barnabas played a large role in supporting Paul so that Paul could successfully share the gospel, even when times were tough (and they often were). “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” (Proverbs 18:21).  And Barnabas gave words of life to Paul.

Each of us can be a “Barnabas” for someone else.  We don’t need to have special wisdom or all of the right answers, although we can certainly pray for both.  We just need to walk with others and say “I see you. You can do this with God’s help.”

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.  Proverbs 25:11

Your words have power.  How can you use your words today to bring life, give golden apples, and cups of cold water to someone in need of encouragement?  Be a “Barnabas” to someone today!

About the Writer:
Kelley has been married for 12 years and is a mom to two fun, energetic boys.  A former elementary teacher, she is passionate about studying God’s Word and teaching it to others.  In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and taking photographs.

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A Letter to My Little Ones

To my sweet little ones,

As I rock you and watch your eyes draw heavier with each blink, I softly hum the tune of ‘this little light’ and imagine the world that you will face as you grow. The pervading distortion of truth and evil can be paralyzing, but I see you being a change-maker. A defender of truth. And a spreader of hope.

In scripture we learn about the responsibility and impact of Timothy’s life through Paul’s letters. Timothy was young relative to other leaders of the church, but God used him mightily to guard and protect the gospel for the early growing church.

You too, my child, are never too young to make an impact on the kingdom. Just as Paul encouraged Timothy, I encourage you, “don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for other believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

When we would pray as you grew inside me, our hearts would swell with anticipation as we thought about the promise of Jeremiah.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5

It’s an exciting verse, full of possibilities and the hope that comes with being known and used by God. If you continue that passage, however you see Jeremiah’s concern for being capable and adequate for the role that God had called him to.

But the Lord says to Jeremiah, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you… then the Lord reached out his hand and touched [Jeremiah’s] mouth and said to [him], ‘I have put my words in your mouth.’” (Jeremiah 1:7-9)

These verses were true of Jeremiah and are true of you too. You are known. And you are divinely positioned by God. Qualified or not. Capable or not. Those restrictions are overruled by the fact that God is the One who calls you to your purpose. John 15:16 says “You did not choose Me, but I chose your and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit.”

The deep beauty of both of these passages is that you don’t need to have all of the answers. God will fill that gap for you with conviction through the Holy Spirit, the teaching of scripture, and relationships with mentors in the faith. You are a vessel—a carrier of God’s gift to the world. You are stewarding this gift for only a short time.

Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.  Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.  I Timothy 4:15-16

About the Writer:
Audra is mother to two young children and has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She finds joy in sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important roles.

 

Don’t Worry, I’ll fix IT

I’m a fixer.  I fix things.  It’s what I do.  Someone’s got a problem?  Tell me, and I’ll fix it.  My friends even gave me the nickname “Miss Fix It” in high school.  This personality trait can get me into trouble, however.  I have the tendency to attempt to solve the problem immediately in a manner I think is best instead of consulting the Ultimate Fixer, God.  I can be impatient, determined that the problem must be solved ASAP, and convinced that my way is clearly the best.

Abraham’s wife Sarah and I have this trait in common. God has told Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars, despite the fact that they are both very old and at the time childless. We then learn in Genesis 16 that Sarah takes the matter into her own hands and tries to fix it. She sends her slave, Hagar, into her husband’s arms:

“Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Genesis 16:2b

Notice the keyword “I” in that verse. Long story short, this plan doesn’t work out. The results of that decision include hostility, catfights, and homelessness. We may not have much patience but thankfully our sovereign Lord does. He has the patience to let us make mistakes but receive us with open arms afterwards. Even though Sarah tries to fix it, God still blesses her with a son and her and Abraham’s descendants are indeed as numerous as the stars.

As I’ve gotten older and tried to fix oh-so-many things, I’ve learned that life is a lot easier if I sit in the back seat and let Him be the driver. He doesn’t even need me to be the navigator! I can take a nap, drink a Coke, listen to music, and do whatever I want (I’d probably choose the nap option to be honest).  And, that’s not a bad way to live. Consider Jesus’s own words in Matthew 11:28-30 NIV and let His peace wash over you:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

The Message translates the last part of verse 30 like this, “Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Wow, what a concept! The Creator of the universe doesn’t need me to fix it . . .

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to two young boys. Additionally, she occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

Finding Comfort Where God has Placed You

When you look up the name Joshua in the Bible, you find words like conqueror, leader, and warrior – all inspiring titles. But from where I sit, my days look anything but heroic.

I know there are many lessons to be learned from Joshua’s courage and obedience during his conquests towards the promised land.  However, in this season of motherhood where I find myself battling the world’s pressure for an explanation of my life’s purpose, I crave a way to connect more deeply with Joshua’s story. All of our stories start somewhere, after all, and as someone who feels as if I’m floating around in that ‘somewhere’ part of life, I wanted to look at where Joshua came from. What made him who he was? How was he able to discern the will of the Lord so clearly? How was he able to lead so confidently?

The very first mention of Joshua in the Bible occurs in chapter 17 of Exodus. We open on his life somewhere around the age of 40-45 years old when Moses chooses Joshua to lead the Israelites against Amalek. Moses tells Joshua,

Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. Exodus 17:9-11. 

After Moses’ arms grew weary on top of the hill, Aaron and Hur supported his body as he held up the staff until the Israelites had won. Verse 14 continues, Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ ” (Exodus 17:14).

We see God giving Joshua an opportunity to learn first-hand what courage and obedience looked like in Moses, a man who knew God face-to-face. Moments like this were used by God to prepare Joshua both mentally and spiritually to become the successor to Moses who 40 years later in leading the Israelites into the promised land. Now you and I may not be leading a nation anytime soon, but the message I take from this is to live today exactly how God has instructed you. Walk in obedience. Absorb every moment. God has divinely planned these circumstances to teach and prepare you for the purpose to which He has called you.

Our obedience fills the gap between having faith IN God and experiencing victory THROUGH God.

Every time I read this story, I linger on verse 14; God tells Moses to recite it back to Joshua after writing it down. Joshua needed to be trained from the beginning of his leadership role that any victory experienced was a demonstration of God fulfilling His promise.Women, we are to recite the faithful promises of God to those around us. Through this, glory will always be given to God and we will recognize how our obedience in faith can be used by God to accomplish victory.

Just as Joshua’s future was forever defined by the example he had in watching the faith and leadership of Moses, we too can learn from the generation before us. And then we can turn around and fill that same role for the generation  after us. You are exactly where God wants you to be. Lead and be led.

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.

The Goldilocks Disorder

My name should be Goldilocks!

When ordering from a menu, I like my food to be “just right” – dressing on the side, no cheese, water with lemon. When folding laundry, I fold towels so they fit “just right” in the cabinet. When dusting, which I probably don’t do as often as you, I return decorative items so they sit “just right” in their assigned places.

How does trying to live in a “just right” Goldilocks world affect my spiritual life? It’s like oil and water! It doesn’t work!

Sometimes when I pray, I tell God how I would like things to be “just right” in my life – a quiet child, a calm day, good health, a check in the mail. Very seldom do my requests become reality because God is a good Father and a wise Sovereign. He allows only what is best, and I’m learning His sovereign plans for me really are “just right.”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

What does it mean to say God “plans to prosper us”? He doesn’t promise to prosper us by putting money in our bank account or giving us a better job. His plans are custom-designed to teach us to thrive . . . have fortitude . . . have courage in times of trouble. I would not have chosen some of the situations God has allowed for me, and some of life’s difficulties have been lingering for many years, as possibly some have been for you as well. I’m learning God’s Spirit enables me to persevere through the challenges He allows. Because of the situations God allows in our lives, our faith can grow stronger and we can have empathy (your pain in my heart) with others. God wastes nothing.

What does it mean to say God “plans to give us hope”?  Hope in scripture is not crossing our fingers – hoping a husband won’t leave, hoping we can get pregnant, hoping a child will graduate, or hoping we’ll be able to retire. Hope in scripture is a blessed assurance…a peace that comes during difficulties. God is ready to give us an inner quietness even when life is hard.

What does it mean God to say “plans to give us a future”? As God’s children, our future is assured (guaranteed . . . secure) because He has prepared a place for us to live eternally with Him.  As the old hymn says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.”

For those of us who have The Goldilocks Disorder, how should we face the new year?  We can rest in God’s plans.  Rest?!  In 2019 God wants us to rest?!  Life in the 21stcentury is on the fast track and there’s very little time to rest physically, emotionally, or spiritually – right?

 

Where was Goldilocks at the end of the fairy tale?  She was resting . . . she was even asleep!!  She had given up trying to make things “just right.”

Yes, the story of Goldilocks is a fairy tale, but God’s Word is not. He is our Faithful Father and His plans are always perfect. God promises His plans will give us hope in 2019 and an eternal future. He allows only what is best, and His sovereign plans are always “just right.”

About the Writer:
Sherry enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, Bible study, and traveling.  She and her husband, David, are Directors of the Sonburst Class at First Baptist Dallas.

 

 

Christmas Traditions That Point to Jesus

Many Christian moms strive to make sure the Christmas season doesn’t get swept away in commercialism, but is truly a time of joy. What an opportunity we have to celebrate with our family the greatest miracle the world has even known!  God coming to earth as a baby named Jesus to rescue us from the curse of this world is worthy of jubilant celebration. Christian moms know this and desire this for our families, but cutting through the expectations of the season and getting to the heart of Christmas can be difficult. What’s the solution?

There is no formula. What works best for one family doesn’t create a mandate for others to do the same. Some mothers excel at and relish in Pinterest-worthy advent projects.  Others find doing simple things like reading stories that point to Jesus’ coming in the Old Testament best for their family. I humbly share a few things our family does with our young children to celebrate Christmas. Perhaps one of these strikes a chord with you or gives you an idea all your own.

  1. Our girls love playing the “Star from Afar” game. My husband and I move the star every night, and the girls wake up each morning to search for the star. Upon locating it, they move the wise men under the star as they follow it on their path to meet the new King! When my girls wake up Christmas morning the star is over the manger and they along with the wise men find the Savior!
  2. We host an annual Happy Birthday Jesus party, normally on Christmas Eve. It’s small and simple. We have a cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. We sing a few Christmas songs and read the Christmas story from Luke 2. The children put on a play of the Christmas story using things we have around the house like sheets, sticks, and blankets as costumes.
  3. We snuggle on the couch and watch a YouTube video of Joy Williams song “Here with Us” set to scenes from The Nativity Story.

Children thrive on rhythms and routine. Having a few traditions in your family that clearly point to the wonder and awe of Jesus’ birth will seal in the lives of your children the miracle of Christmas. Celebrate and rejoice!

About the Writer:
Caroline is a wife and mom who loves Jesus. She also has a career in commercial real estate investing. God has given her a heart for encouraging other women. She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class, at First Baptist Dallas.

Finding Success In God’s Economy

Do you ever have those moments when God reveals glimpses of your future self? When I stop and close my eyes, I see a woman who is poised and gracious and who reminds me of all the women that I love and admire most in my life. I see time beautifully written in the creases of my face and hands – evidence of a life well lived.

Our time on this earth can be somewhat of a mystery, as we journey from one season to another continually searching for our path. In the struggle of accepting each new season, I find peace and direction in the Psalm below.

Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Psalm 37:3

With words like “dwell” and “cultivate”, I’m encouraged to settle in and invest in each new setting in which I find myself. The word “cultivate” is deep and very physical. It’s a call to work consistently and diligently with our hands, even when the fruits are yet unseen. We are not to worry about the results of our work, but we are called only to work in faithfulness for the glory of God. He will take care of the rest. Faith is living without a necessity for understanding. It’s living today as though the promises of tomorrow have already been met.

I’ve used the talents and passions that God has given me in many different capacities. Yet I’ve never quite felt that any of the outputs had long-standing purpose worth continuing. I’ve struggled to figure out what I was ‘supposed’ to be doing with my time and energy.

As members of the millennial generation, our expectations are accelerated and unquenchable because of lists like the “Forbes 30 under 30” and the grandiose lifestyles presented on social media. Sometimes we become so engrossed by others’ success that we fail to take steps forward in our own lives. Feeling as if we have already missed the boat, we often just sit on the dock and watch.

This generation values numbers that mean nothing in God’s economy. Thankfully, my status in heaven is not measured by the most likes or followers, but instead it is weighed on the scales of faithfulness. So, in the spirit of faithfulness, let us each live with no regrets, whether or not we see the fruits in our own life time.

Rather than feeling that we need to choose one single path which leads us into a narrow scope of a calling, I propose that we adopt an illustration of our lives as nets cast wide and open. We can dabble in this and that, all with the purpose of bringing glory to God. What if all of these small tasks done in faithfulness add up to something grand in God’s economy?

May everything we do be in service of the fact that, regardless of the size of our ministry here on earth, God has given us talents that are unique and essential in His plan. We are stewards of these gifts, and may we all strive to hear him say

“ . . . . well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23a)NKJV.

So, go ahead! Cast your nets and use your many talents!

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.

How to Tame a Tiger: Parenting Tips and Tidbits from my Grandmother

She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26

Because my family and I lived with my grandparents for the first six years of my life, I have very many precious memories of living in a multigenerational home.  My grandfather owned and milked cows on a dairy.  My grandmother was a homemaker, and lived in a time when there were no dishwashers, no microwave ovens, no fancy kitchen gadgets, and with only a wringer type clothes washing machine.  Most of her wonderful home cooked meals came from the garden she had planted and vegetables that were either fresh or canned.  Out of her home came the best pies, made-from-scratch cakes, homemade candies, fried chicken and steaks, and lots of joy and fun.  During my first few years of school, all of my clothes were made by hand by her and my mom. I can remember being so excited about having five new dresses – one for every day of the week at the beginning of each school year.

Grandmother demonstrated to us all the lovingkindness which God shows to us. There were no extracurricular activities, except an occasional baseball game in a nearby field with my cousins. Some of my best memories are just being with my grandmother learning to sew, crochet, and cook; working by her side, or just spending quality time with her fishing off a dock. She led by example and worked tirelessly to see that all our needs were met.  All of us grandkids knew where she stood when it came to doing what we were supposed to do and respected her high behavioral expectations. I never remember her even having to raise her voice with any of us.  Even though she died when I was only eighteen, I am so thankful to have had her example of how to parent and lead a family with respect, love, and kindness. She was truly the Proverbs 31 woman.

As a grandmother now, I hope to pass along some of those parenting tips and tidbits I learned from her, as well as a few of my own.  Here are some of the things those include.

  • Read scripture daily – schedule a quiet time for yourself to reap the benefits of God’s wisdom. (Colossians 3:16) And pray, pray, pray. (I Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Read scripture aloud daily with your children, talking about it in daily activities, and memorizing with them. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
  • Keep high expectations for behavior, teaching (Proverbs 31:26) and explaining to them your expectations, and train them as you go. (Proverbs 22:6)
  • Don’t be afraid to discipline (train) age- appropriately with consequences related to the action. (Proverbs 13:24)
  • Set clear rules and boundaries always with their own safety in mind.
  • Be clear to the children when disciplining that you love them, but are not happy with their choice of wrong behavior, or actions. (Proverbs 3:12) And never let your own emotions get out of control.
  • Spend quality time with your children, stay connected, and know what is going on in their lives, always!
  • Finally, do all things with love and kindness, demonstrating the love of Christ, as He has done for us. (Ephesians 2:7) Don’t give up! It takes time to tame a tiger!

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

 

About the Writer:
Beverly has been a long time teacher and administrator who alongside with her husband have taught numerous Sunday school classes. As a grandparent today, she loves to share with others God’s Word and make it applicable to daily living.

 

Beyond Being Nice

As my son approached his second birthday, I held my breath and waited for the rebellion to begin. I gathered several books about discipline theories and how a toddler’s brain works and stacked them on my bedside table.

I felt so ill-equipped, as each day brought new challenges, but the more closely I looked into my son’s eyes the more I saw a child who wanted desperately to be taught. I saw a child who learned by watching and needed an example, a child who craved personal connection and needed to see, hear and feel how loved he was. This child was learning his place in the world and had a heart that was ready to be molded.

Our children are growing up in a world that is new and exciting to them, but it’s growing more perilous every single day (2 Timothy 3:1-3). We sing the song ‘This Little Light’ and tell them to go out and shine in our dark world.

My husband and I continually pray for a long list of traits that we want our children to develop. But at the top of that list is kindness because of the powerful effect it can have in winning hearts for Christ. Romans 2:4 says ‘Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?’ It sounds simple but here’s the catch . . . kindness requires us to be vulnerable.

Kindness requires an inner security that runs so deep that we are not shaken when the other person rejects or mistreats us in return. We must put aside our pride and show a gentle and genuine compassion. Our opportunity to respond is not based on the other person’s deserving of our forgiveness, but on mercy alone.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Luke 6:35

By teaching our children the principles of kindness, we are teaching them a multitude of other qualities like compassion, empathy, patience, and forgiveness. But all of these qualities are hollow without understanding the lovingkindess of God. This understanding can only be gained by experiencing it first hand in our lives, by having a personal relationship with Christ.

So, as parents teaching our kids about the meaning of kindness, let’s not confuse its definition with that of “niceness”. Let’s instead impress on them the grace and mercy that is at the core of kind actions. Let us point them to Christ.

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.

His Grace is Sufficient

Do the “what ifs” sometimes overwhelm you? When you let your mind drift to any of the endless list of potential crises that could be a phone call away, do you feel unequipped to handle the grief? Do you look at someone else’s struggle and think, “I can’t even imagine” or “there is no way I can handle that”? That particular feeling struck me recently: I have two young mom friends, sisters in Christ, who have cancer. Both have two children under five. I can’t even imagine.

The possibilities of these scenarios seem crippling. And then, in steps the power of God.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.                         2 Corinthians 12:9

The picture below is of my first baby girl, Elizabeth Alane. I never got to hold her. Eric and I saw her heartbeat at seven weeks, and by nine weeks her heartbeat was no more.

His Grace is Sufficient

After my miscarriage God held me up in so many ways. One way was through the Scripture that comforted and assured me. One of the verses that brought me so much comfort was 2 Corinthians 12:9.  His grace is sufficient. 

A week and a day before we found out that the baby no longer had a heartbeat, I broke down sobbing, and I told my husband, Eric, I was scared of losing the baby. I was mess. Eric held me and comforted me, and he prayed that we would put the baby in God’s hands. If you looked at what a mess I was then, you would have thought actually losing the baby would have rendered me a useless waste. But God gave me the grace I needed in the moment I need it. After my miscarriage, I had an undeniable hope despite my loss. I didn’t know how this would work together for good (Romans 8:28). I didn’t understand God’s thoughts and plans in this (Isaiah 55:8-9). But I believed that God’s word was true.  Even though I didn’t understand how He would fulfill the promise of Scripture, I knew that he would. God was extending me the grace I needed.

His grace is sufficient. It is sufficient to meet our every need, day by day as they happen. It is also sufficient to meet our greatest need – for salvation. Let the power of God be your refuge: no matter what lies ahead, He is able to see you through it.

About the Writer:
Caroline M. is a wife and mom who loves Jesus. She also has a career in commercial real estate investing. God has given her a heart for encouraging other women. She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class, at First Baptist Dallas.