Serving my way to Joy

Joy is not my natural state.  If I’m honest, I admit that worry comes much more naturally, especially since I became a mother.  I used to think joy was something that would come to me if only . . . if only someone would do what I want of them, if only I were promoted, or if only I had more of what I wanted.  But when I got to the other side of the “if only”, I may have been satisfied, but the feeling wasn’t one of joy.  I have always experienced joy as a gift.  It’s nothing I’ve been able to work for, but God has given me clues along the way as to how I might experience more of it.

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.  Philemon 1:7 (NIV)

I’ve learned it’s not possible for me to experience true joy when I’m focused on me.  Joy is experienced only when I step outside myself and focus on the joy of others.

 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

Finding joy takes discipline.  That might seem counterintuitive, and it certainly was for me.  But Jesus knew what joy was waiting for him, and that helped him endure the Cross.

We don’t have a cross to bear, but we do have plenty of opportunity to step outside ourselves and find joy.  The easiest way for me has been to serve others.  Any time I serve, even in the smallest way, I always benefit more than those I serve.  The joy I receive seeing others be blessed far outweighs the joy of receiving anything other than God’s grace.

I also find that keeping track of those moments and my blessings helps me when I’m not feeling the joy as much.  In those moments of joy, if I take a time to capture the feeling in writing, then I can go back to it on darker days  The way I’ve done this is to keep a gratitude page in my journal.

Counting my blessings and serving others are the two consistent ways I know will bring me joy.  What can you do today to experience joy in your heart?

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.



Love Tested by our Darkest Sins

“Lord I love you” is a powerful statement.  How do we protect ourselves from the hypocrisy of declaring it on Sundays, proclaiming it to receive affirmation on social media, but failing to hold fast to that commitment in the hard moments of our lives?

The proof of our commitment always comes in testing.  My commitment to love God has been tested again and again:  through the miscarriage of two of my precious children, through watching a sweet friend die of cancer, and through Satan’s destruction of God ordained relationships I held dear.  But trials have mercifully driven me to seek after God and to desire to know Him more.  God speaks often in the Bible of how testing and tribulation grow and mature our faith. (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4)

While all trials test and grow us, I think there is a special significance and precious proof of our love of God in the devastation of dealing with our own sin.  Grieving over, confronting, and laying before Jesus my own sin has done more to strengthen my relationship with Him than any other type of testing.  These excuses reveal my failings, my inability to strengthen that relationship on my own, and my deep need for Him.  The truth laid bare is hard to handle, but it is freeing.

King David is a gloriously God-ordained example of clinging to the love of God in the face of our darkest sin.  The story of David’s horrific sin and the unshakable love that rescued David is laid out in 2 Samuel 11 – 12.

David lusted after Bathsheba, committed adultery, and then had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah- who was an unfailing loyal servant to David- killed to conceal the fact Bathsheba had become pregnant from their tryst.  None of his schemes worked.  God used the prophet Nathan to reveal David’s unthinkable shame.  Nathan proclaimed, “You are the man!” and exposed David’s worst sins.

This was a defining moment for David.  When confronted with guilt, our natural reaction is to fight back and rage against the exposure of the truth.  David’s love for God conquered all those impulses, and he instead turned to the Lord and lamented:

I have sinned against the Lord. (2 Samuel 12:13)

David would later write several beautiful Psalms, including Psalm 32, in acknowledgement of what God had done to rescue him from his iniquities.  What defined David, a man the Bible would call a man after God’s own heart, was not his worst moment, but his reaction to his worst moment. His action was rooted in a deep love for God.  He repented because he loved God more than he loved himself.

Sin separates us from the love of God.  But our love of God means we are willing to lay aside the encumbrances of this life and the sin which so easily entangles us and run to Christ.  We die to self, stop the justification, explanation, and minimization of sin and say, “I want Christ more, I love Christ more.”

Love God today.  Lay your sin before Him.  Turn from sin and say, “Lord, I’m depending on You to free me from the deepest, darkest corners of this sin.” We can count on the Lord’s grace, mercy, and unfailing love.  He honors those who love Him and nothing proves that love more than confronting our sin and casting it off.

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.



I Don’t Want Your Love

I love being a mommy. My little girl, soon to be four, is the apple of my eye. When she chimes in with an unsolicited “I love you, Mommy,” from the backseat of the car or while I’m cooking dinner, my heart melts. Lately she has been asking for more and more hugs, and I am more than contented to oblige her with that! However, sometimes I have to remind her that, as much as I treasure her affection and heart-warming hugs, words, etc., what I really want is for her to obey me because that is what God asks from her (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1).

For example, I ask her to put up her shoes or toys or come sit down at the table and she, in response, asks for a hug. Or she knowingly chooses not to follow my instruction and asks for a hug instead of coming clean with a confession. I can definitely see how a hug would be a nice alternative to other forms of discipline, but last time I checked, hugs were not compelling enough to encourage her to change.

Each time I am met with my daughter’s choice of affectionate “love” over “obedience,” I am reminded of the commonality of our human struggle — to express love how WE want to or to love as GOD wants us to love.

 Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great. Luke 6:46-49


Though I cannot guarantee that my daughter will accept the truth that God equates obedience with love (1 John 5:3), I can pray and remember that for ME to love her well, I must remember how important it is to teach her that love and obedience go hand in hand.

These are my steps to action:

  1. PRAY-Pray that our children will know Christ and have the heart change to want to obey God because of His love in their heart.
  1. BE FAITHFUL-Faithfully train up our children in the ways of the Lord according to the Bible.
  1. KEEP IT MATTER-OF-FACT-Keep anger and rejection far away during times of discipline. Keep it matter-of-fact: remind children that the best thing they can do to show their love for us as parents is to honor God and us, because when we ALL obey God (children and parents included) God promises it will go well for us.
  1. MEMORIZE-Memorize Proverbs 21:3 with your children: “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (NIV)
  1. SHOW LOVE-Pray like crazy that my actions, attitudes, words, and YES, even hugs, would come across as those of our loving Savior Jesus Christ.

 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.

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.

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.

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.

How Much Do You Know?

Can you name any three of the ten commandments?  Or, two of the Gospels?

Can you list some of the apostles?

Is this the correct chronological order for Biblical leaders: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Paul, and Jesus?

Did you know we are not to associate with a gossip? (Prov. 20:19)

At the risk of revealing my age, I “confess” that I have two grandsons who recently graduated from high school. During that sweet time of reminiscing, I found a picture of me reading to them together when they were less than two from “Elmo”- one of those picture books with the music and sound buttons. In the window seat near where we sat in our big recliner also lay my Bible. As I looked at that picture, I was saddened. Not sadness because they were now grown and that time was past, but emotions of deep regret because I had not been reading to them from His Word during each and every opportunity I had been given.  

 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,  and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19a

What the Bible Says

In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul shared his desire for the new Christains of the church to know and understand what great wealth they had in Christ. The verse above is a part of a prison prayer for his new converts, and it is not in any way referring to materialism. On the contrary, Paul was praying for us, as well as the Ephesian believers:

  • to be enlightened- to be able to see and understand spiritual content,
  • to have hope-with Christ we have a living hope, the Comforter within us day by day, encouraging us to live for Him in all we do,
  • to know the riches of His inheritance, in His saints, that’s us!  Even though I have never felt like a saint, that is how He sees us, and
  • to understand the exceeding greatness of His power we have in the Holy Spirit, the dynamic energy to which we have access.  We need His power, not only because we are so weak, but also because we have enemies in the spiritual realm that would love to rob us of our peace, and we cannot fight them alone. (Ephesians 6:11-12)

Food for Thought

Even though we become “rich” when we accept Christ, unless we read the “bankbook” we will never understand the spiritual wealth, precious gems, and priceless truths God has for us. It is not enough just to know about God; we become more satisfied and at peace when we really “know” Him as our Guide, Friend, and most importantly “Abba” or Father.

  1. Spend time in His Word,
  2. Train your children to do the same, and
  3. Attend church, one which not only reads scripture, but teaches scripture as well.
  4. Determine to grow spiritually through sound Biblical leaders and teachers such as: Dr. Robert Jeffress on Pathway to Victory, Dr. David Jeremiah onTurning Point, and/or Dr. Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries, just to name few.

About the Writer:
Beverly has been an educator, administrator, educational sales representative, Sunday school teacher, and mentor; but most importantly is a wife, mother, and grandmother with a passion for sharing Christ.

Nice is Not a Fruit of the Spirit


“Some people are naturally good, you know, and others are not. I’m one of the others,”  LM Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

Anne with an “e” didn’t quite get her theology of original sin correct, but she certainly voiced the experience we all have as “one of the others.” Preschool is an excellent laboratory to prove that no child ever must be taught to be selfish, but needs a basic lesson in civilization to “be kind”.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

In his letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul encouraged them to be kind, not just in general, but specifically to “one another”. Why is it easier for us to be kind to strangers and let someone in front of us at the checkout, but get quickly annoyed with a family member who has a bad day and is a bit grumpy?

If that’s not enough, Paul carries the instructions a step further when he adds the word: “tenderhearted”. And then, as if to stretch us to an impossible limit, he continues: “forgiving each other, JUST AS God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

This is one of those familiar verses that those of us who grew up in church have known from infancy. The old saying that “familiarity breeds contempt”, or at the very best “complacency,” fits well right about here. It was helpful to me to learn that “nice” is not a fruit of the spirit. Being kind and being nice are not the same thing. One can be nice and observe outward boundaries of civility and have an unkind and selfish heart. One of the most powerful illustrations of this is played out in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. The novel is a masterfully written contrast of law and grace, of niceness and kindness. Set in early 19th century France, the story follows a man imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child. He is shown mercy and kindness by a friendly bishop and his life is forever changed. In contrast, he is hunted by a police inspector who doesn’t understand kindness and mercy, but sees them as a weakness.

The fictional story is true in that we cannot extend kindness until we realize, like Anne and Jean Valjean, our own lack of goodness and accept God’s forgiveness.

About the Writer:
Nan 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.

Stand Firm

The road was tough, the pain severe, the circumstances horrendous. The strength of one young woman was fading and discouragement was setting in. “Was it worth it anymore?” she pondered. Lisa stood at a crossroads in her mind. One way meant a great deal of work, sacrifice and perseverance, but victory guaranteed. The other road, the most popularly traveled, would certainly be the easiest but would result in little at the end.

The deceiver was attacking Lisa’s mind, and quitting suddenly seemed best. She was tired, weary, and uncertain of her future. She had almost talked herself out of the path to which God had called her. Why? She was focusing on the circumstances surrounding her journey instead of on the God who had called her to it.

Lisa, quickly realizing she was in the middle of a spiritual warfare, surrendered her thoughts and feelings over to God. As the Lord overtook the young woman’s heart, she determined from that moment on to move forward with her Father, no matter the severity of the path.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:10-13 NASB

At times, we too may find ourselves in conflicting situations. Yet we must remember that Satan longs to alter our progress by tempting us to take the easy route or even to quit the course all together. However, through Christ, we must learn how to fight the battle of spiritual warfare.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-17 NASB

Pay close attention to the words, “Stand firm.” They mean, “To be of a steadfast mind.” As we support ourselves with God’s armor, we must do so by refusing to waver as a result of circumstances. Trials are going to come. Temptations will frequently persist. Satan will continue to attack until you and I go home to be with the Lord. Yet in God’s word He clearly states how to fight the good fight effectively and accurately.

Don’t allow the enemy to sway you back and forth in your emotional stance between circumstances or God. Armor up and stand firm!

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.

Be Still

Let me paint a picture for you. Moses is leading the Israelites, God’s chosen people, out of Egypt where they were being brutality mistreated as slaves under Pharaoh. As they are fleeing, Pharaoh sends a large army filled with his best chariots after them to capture and kill them once again. At one point the Israelites find themselves in an impossible situation with Pharaoh’s army closing in on them
from behind and the Red Sea in front. At this point the fear filled Israelites begin ridiculing Moses for taking them from their familiar life and putting them in such a dangerous situation. All of a sudden panic sets in and being tortured in Egypt looks better to them than the fear of the unknown. Moses then gives the Israelites a pep talk of sorts reminding them the Lord will in fact deliver them. These specific wrds from Moses replay often in my own head as I face impossible situations as well.

 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.  Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

We struggle with infertility and our situation often feels impossible. I can easily feel surrounded by fear if I focus on our years of past struggles or the unknowns that lie in front of us, just like the Israelites. I find that when fear is ruling, I desire to have full control over my own situation. Living in fear and control is not being still. In fact, they keep us from fulling trusting God and often work against His plan. God wants us to be still so He can rule over our lives, directing us as He fights our battles along the way.

So how did the Lord fight for the Israelites? With the raising of Moses’ staff over the Red Sea it split in two, leaving a clear and dry path for the Israelites to escape. As they escape through the parted waters, the Egyptian army follows. At the direction of the Lord, the walls of water come crashing down and the Red Sea swallows up their enemy. The Israelites trusted and the Lord fought their impossible battle for them.

Don’t let fear rule and discount your faith in God. God is powerful over our impossible situations, we just have to trust Him. I absolutely love this specific verse from the popular worship song, No Longer Slaves by Bethel Music

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it.
You drowned my fears in perfect love,
You rescued me.
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.

How amazing that the God of the universe is working to fight my battles for me. Knowing that relieves such a burden! We must be still. Let Him drown our fears, allow Him to fight for us, and He will part a way through the impossible.

About the Writer:
Joni is a former elementary school teacher turned stay at home wife and mom to her son. She enjoys serving at First Baptist Dallas along side her husband as small group leaders in their Young Marrieds Sunday school class. She loves spending her free time crafting, attempting Pinterest projects, and above all spending time with her family.