With all the recent tragedy we’ve seen around the globe, my heart breaks. If you still have blood pumping through yours, I’m willing to bet you’re deeply affected, too. We watch the news and check social media to unimaginable visions of earthquakes, unspeakable terror attacks, mass shooting rampages in the midst of celebration, wildfires of epic proportions, catastrophic floods, hurricanes and civil unrest amongst divided nations, including ours. By the grace of God, my family narrowly escaped major storm damage at our home in South Florida from Hurricane Irma, labeled by many as apocalyptic. Yet, we have countless friends, neighbors and fellow Christians impacted. Friends across the States and around the globe are living through unbelievable horrors. We pray for them, send supplies and relief, and reach out in love. And I wonder, daily, is it enough? One can hope.
More than my heart breaking for the tragedies themselves, I find myself somber at the thought of fellow men and women around the globe living without the hope I know in Jesus Christ. I was once there, but I’ve found His promises and love. Since you’re here reading this, I’m guessing you have that extraordinary and supernatural hope, too. Even through my sorrow, my motivation to love and share from a heart of generosity increases. You know, I think that’s His plan, right?
What are we to do as women of God when in the midst of tragedy, seemingly present in every corner of the globe, we feel hopeless? C.S. Lewis says this in his classic Letters of C.S. Lewis, “Of Course God does not consider you hopeless. If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is)… Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.”
The answer is clear: seek God. Seek Him in every moment. Seek Him in the morning, seek Him in the evening. Seek Him in the natural and in the supernatural. Seek Him in your worship. Seek Him in the billowing clouds, the crashing waves, the glorious sunsets and His promises through a world of color in rainbows. Seek Him through the stories of good happening in the midst of the tragedies all over the world. Seek Him through examples of the tangible love of Jesus being shared through hard-working hands and feet of first responders and volunteers. And, of course, seek Him and take Him at His word. It’s full of His promises of hope. Billy Graham’s ministry encourages us with this, “Meditate on what God says in these promises from Scripture and find lasting hope amid a world that can feel hopeless.”
In a world inundated with media, sometimes it’s a great idea to mute the noise and just sit with God for a season. Take a literal RESET and use the tragedy all around to propel yourself and those in your life closer to the Lord. And, by all means, pray. Pray that His words of life will spring forth from your lips, and your social media accounts, through the Holy Spirit as you encounter those all around, who are desperately seeking a glimpse of hope. Hit like and share on those things, my friend.
May God’s supernatural peace, joy and hope fill you to overflowing as you transfer the tangible hope of Christ through your actions; hands and feet. Pray to see what is your role in your community? Let’s rise up and be His beautiful, glowing bride, loving a longing world. May you feel His presence, singing over you, and may it inspire you to bring life and hope to a disheartened, hopeless world. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. –Psalm 147:3
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
“He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
—1 Peter 1:3-4
“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
“Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…”
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”
—2 Corinthians 4:17-18
“The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
“Behold, I am coming soon.”
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
We live in South Florida, arguably one of the most beautiful states on earth, even after the recent devastation from Hurricane Irma. If you think of Florida, beyond the storm, you’ll picture gorgeous waters, palm trees and tropical breezes. Certainly pictures of Heaven on Earth. I’m so blessed to be living here, fulfilling a childhood dream as a travel writer. I love sharing stories about many of the amazing places in God’s world that our family is able to experience. Being a journalist so close to Orlando allows for plenty of opportunities to experience the Walt Disney World parks.
People often say Disney World is the most magical place on earth. While a Disney Park is absolutely a blast (albeit exhausting!) while you’re there, and you’ll certainly make amazing memories, I disagree.
The state of forgiveness is the most magical place on earth, especially forgiveness of self.
Bitterness and unforgiveness are poisonous roots that pollute our soul. Hebrews 12:15 says,
“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
It’s the same soul we use to commune with God, our husband, and our children. We wouldn’t feed our family poison, and many of us won’t even feed them food contaminated with pesticides. How can we expect to be giving our children a healthy does of love if it’s coming from a polluted soul? Matthew 18:23-35 says we’ll be handed over to the torturers, the tormentors, if we don’t forgive others. I’ll bet Jesus was talking about forgiving ourselves, too. I’m not sure about you, but I’ll skip the torture and head toward grace! Joyce Meyer says, “Your fellowship with God flows freely when you’re willing to forgive, but it gets blocked by unforgiveness.”
Are we bigger than God that we can’t forgive ourselves when our loving, Heavenly Father, has forgiven us through His Son? Sheri Seligson recently wrote, “In a sense, I am denying the work of Jesus. God forgives me, so why can’t I forgive myself? I mean, I DO forgive myself in my head, but my heart keeps bringing up the guilt and regret.”
We’ve got to rely on God and enter His forgiveness, grace, peace and rest.
It’s in that state of forgiveness of ourselves where we can become the women of God He envisions for us: daughters of the Most High King, brave warriors armed for battle, gentle and kind souls sent to create beauty, life-giving words and atmosphere. And so much more than we can even see.
Truth be told, I’ve struggled with this myself, moms. I mean, often I forget we’re created to create and it’s really ok to just sit and play with the kids for a while instead of staring into guilt from the years of half- used (and often untouched) curriculum that might have cost too much to begin with. How about that parenting fail we’re carrying? The way we lashed out at our husband or didn’t do something we intended for a friend? Haven’t we all missed a deadline, or finishing that schoolwork, or burned a meal, or over committed in our church or co-op, often to things way out of our control?
When we miss the mark, don’t we beat ourselves up? Good news, moms: we aren’t meant to carry these weights and stress, we’re meant to live in grace, the free and unmerited favor of God. Can you relate, mamas?
It’s a painful and poisonous cycle, mamas:
Do something wrong.
Get mad at self.
Hold a personal grudge so it probably happens again, and not be able to fully give to those around us while we carry the guilt’s burden. Let’s let it go!
Freedom begins when we forgive ourselves, just as our freedom in Christ began when He forgave us. Let’s live in this freedom!
We’ll begin to make different choices, plan better, prioritize and even say no sometimes. We’ll take personal accountability and responsibility, thus modeling these amazing traits to our children, when we live in the state of personal forgiveness. Being ok with not being ok.
I’m so grateful I’m a writer for times like these when God reveals His beauty and grace through words I craft, often deep into the stillness of the night. The first thoughts- just an idea- form as a whisper, and come only when I’m in a state of forgiveness. And in a way only Holy Spirit can, life is breathed into my own soul as I write words for you.
I pray you are blessed and forgive yourself, right now, for whatever it is poisoning your soul. Take a big dose of His antidote of forgiveness and peace to see how your soul nurtures life all around.
Let’s take simple actions to make things right, through confession to others and to Papa and then enter into His promise of peace that surpasses all understanding.
(Sometimes, I write poetry…)
Can’t we just forgive ourselves?
For the clothes we didn’t iron
The room that went haywire
Books still left unread
Thoughts raging in our heads
Words left unspoken
Weight we haven’t lost
Maybe a friend whom we have crossed ?
Is anything unforgivable for our King?
The one who gives us everything-
Who are we to assume his role?
The price is paid-
We’ve been made whole
When will enough
Just Be ENOUGH?
Let’s quit sweating the
Weed the poisonous root
Bear Spirit’s fruit
Return to peace
Release the bitter necess-
Of not forgiving ourselves so
We may simply model
I’m traditionally not a very methodical person on the outside. My home is beautiful, neat, clean, but also well lived in and full of loved and semi-ordered chaos. Drawings, papers and unused books cover my shelves (I may have a hard time parting with them). Mail, homeschool reading, and flyers from my last conference or travel initiative are in neatly stacked piles all around (I’m working on this, but just being real).
Many of us may have systems and methods for doing everything: our meal planners, our homeschool calendars, the scope & sequence of our years educating our children, and hopefully our Bible reading and budgets. I’m working on some new methods and systems to get my piles in order, not just ordered chaos.
The truth is, anything that is successful is systematic. God has spoken order to systems, even the universe around us. Genesis 1:14-15 says,
“Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.”
He had a system to His creation, and it’s His systems which keep our planets revolving in order. The solar system, right? I learned an amazing piece of science this summer at the Creation Museum: if the sun was just one foot closer to Earth, we’d all burn up. But if it was one foot father away, we’d all freeze. God’s systems work.
God sending Jesus to take our sins and redeem the first Adam as the last was methodical. And, Jesus himself taught us a method of praying with the Lord’s prayer.
There are so many prayers needed right now. So many things in our world are not right and need to change. So many health issues, crises of terror, hate, racism, war, economy, politics, and basic needs. I’m sure God’s ears are full of the cries of His people. We see it all over social media, and the more time we spend there, the less time we spend with God. Do we need to hit a reset button?
I know as a busy mom, my time is short. Yours is, too. Let’s face it, everyone in society has a resounding answer to the question, “how are you?” Busy. Do we forget God knew we’d get to a season so busy, so inundated, that we need Him now more than ever? What if we became systematic, not rote, but methodical in our prayers? What if we could get to a place where our collective prayers were truly effective on a global scale? What if we asked people how we could pray for them and then prayed effective prayers? Would more people meet Jesus in a time where He is so needed?
Our pastor said this past week, “You can’t be who you’re going to be and who you used to be at the same time. Be willing to change.” I pray to let the new things come alive in me (2 Corinthians 5:17). But I know, if I want to grow, I have to become more effective in my methods of prayer.
For our prayers to be effective, especially in our overly busy lives, let me propose a couple things:
1. Our prayers don’t end.
Let’s pray without ceasing, forgetting the morning AMEN. Keep the lines of communication open and moving throughout our days. Let’s set reminders to our phones and take a minute every hour to keep our relationship with God growing.
Time with Him = deeper relationship = more effective prayers.
We’ve all heard James 5:16: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Passionate prayers from a mama right with God are effective!
Listen to it this way from The Voice translation, “So own up to your sins to one another and pray for one another. In the end, you may be healed. Your prayers are powerful when they are rooted in a righteous life.”
We need to be morally right before God and others for our prayers to be effective. Rooted in righteousness. I love that, especially here for this Rooted devotional series. Let’s model the method of quick confession, apologizing, and forgiving, then praying, and teaching this to our children.
2. Our prayers model Jesus’ method.
What? Jesus had a method for praying?
Yes, He did. Reread and break apart, not just recite, the Lord’s prayer and you’ll discover it again, too.
Years ago, I heard an acronym for a method of prayer that has always resonated with me. One of my dear mentors says this is a surefire way to get into His presence anytime, anywhere.
-Acknowledge Him (Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name…)
-Confess to Him
-Supplicate before Him (ask for your requests)
A: Let’s acknowledge WHO He Is. What if our prayers didn’t start with what we need and want but who God is.
Holy. Majestic. Mighty. Full of Power, Awestruck Wonder and Glory, displayed over all the Earth and in the Heavens. We just had a clear example of that with the total solar eclipse, right? If we get to know our Heavenly Father better, we have a better understanding of whose we are and therefore, who we are!
C: Confess Now, “if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will cleanse our sins and heal us from all unrighteousness.” Those are big words spoken in every church service I attended as a kid that come to mind from simple memory. Until we unpack what that means, they’re just words. As we confess, we become righteous, and then our prayers become effective. It’s God’s method.
Isn’t this our goal?
Think about a time you’ve had a really deep and moving conversation with a spouse, loved one, or friend. A hard situation approached in love and a humble spirit will most likely end in a peaceful resolution. Saying I’m sorry, I’ve been angry, jealous, prideful, short-tempered (and you know, mamas, the list goes on) these words spoken work! Jesus is our friend, so let’s treat Him as our best one, confessing quickly before Him and those we’ve wronged, and show our children and others the same.
T: Thanksgiving- we have SO much in our lives to be grateful for, and yet we can easily end up focusing on the negativity from the media. Let’s cast our cares aside and keep on living in gratitude and perpetual thanksgiving. You know what you’re thankful for, and if you don’t, take a missions trip to have your eyes opened and spirit broken.
S: Supplicate. It’s not a word we use too often, but it has a deep definition: “to ask or beg for something earnestly or humbly.” It comes from the Latin word supplicat, meaning implored. Let’s go deeper with our asking by using this simple ACTS method.
I’m methodical in the prayers I speak when I put my boys to bed at night. I always quote a scripture, Numbers 6:25.
That the Lord will bless & keep them, keep His face shining on them and be gracious to them, to look upon them with great favor and grant them peace. Then, I add my own methodical prayer, to include all three parts of God’s trinity:
“That the Holy Spirit will go before you and guide the way. That Jesus will always be beside you as your best friend. That Papa God would be behind you, always having your back.”
And I pray the same for you, friend, as you live and pray your effective prayers, then mobilizing boldly and confidently as His hands and feet through great ACTS. Let’s let the fruit of our prayers be ACTS(ions) that speak louder than words.
And the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We’ve heard this quoted over and over again. Perhaps this verse from Philippians 4:7 has been spoken over us in every church service since our childhood. We’re heard it anew in Sunday messages and it runs through our minds when we need the peace of God to silence our troubles.
The Lord’s word is breathing, alive and active, and He will always reveal new levels of truth to us when we ask for His wisdom. He is our Savior. In all circumstances.
This month has been particularly trying for me. I had a callback for more testing after an abnormal result on a routine mammogram. I found my mind under barrage of enemy attack while waiting for the next ultrasound and rescreening appointment. Maybe you’ve experienced something like this, too? You can relate or imagine the horrible thoughts running through my mind I needed to take captive every moment of every day, even sometimes while I slept: “You’re sick. You caught it too late. You don’t take care of yourself. You didn’t get to the doctor in time. This runs in your family. You have cancer. Your family will be without a mother soon. And on and on…”
I was in constant battle mode with the enemy for over a week while I waited and wondered. The only way I was able to continue to function was by remaining in the word of the Lord. I asked for His peace…the peace that surpasses all understanding. I was getting a first hand experience of a different level of understanding just how to call upon God for His supernatural peace, because only He is the Savior.
The Promises Of God
As you can imagine, I spent extra time in prayer and asked a few close friends to pray with me. I claimed the promises of healing through Christ over myself. I’d look straight into my eyes in the mirror and spoke aloud, “I am healed by the stripes of Jesus. No weapon formed against me will prosper. I am created in the image of a perfect and loving God.” I prayed in the car, the shower, in the kitchen, over the laundry and drifting off to sleep. My husband prayed over me and with me. Friends were praying for me while I continued to seek the promised peace that passes all understanding.
Feeling the Peace that Passes All Understanding
I’d been speaking these words of life over myself and my unknown situation as weapons, constantly battling the voice of the accuser and liar in my mind. “How, God? How can I attain this supernatural peace I need and you promise when trials set in?” Out of curiosity, I turned deeper to the word to search out that promise-filled verse in Philippians, wondering “what comes before that word ‘and’ in this famous verse? What is it I’m to do when I need that supernatural peace of God? Of course, He answered. Loud and clear.
Stand Firm in the Lord
…”Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” That’s Philippians 4:6. It’s a command, and it’s also one of my favorite verses to quote; I’d just never realized it was the verse that came right before the peace that passes all understanding!
Such a simple but profound discovery of the character of our Savior. Just give it all to Him. Everything. Through prayer and petition, He promises us that profound and supernatural peace by simply praying, with a few more instructions. In verse 8, Paul tells us how to give it all to Him: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.…”
Did you know in the beginning of Philippians 4 that Paul is asking for help for the women, who “worked hard with me in telling others the Good News.” I felt the Lord had that part of scripture in the Word just for His women, like me, like us, who are on mission to honor Him with our lives!
Let’s read a bit further back,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!…” verse 4
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” verse 5
Do you see how every action and thought we take while under trial (and in daily life) brings us closer to God and His peace? You know what happened after discovering these truths and putting them into action together?
Victory is Promised
The enemy retreated. He had no hope of clouding my mind while the word of God overpowered his attacks. I put these truths together and to work. I began not only speaking words of life but put more effort into rejoicing in God’s goodness. The worship got louder and so did my singing in the shower. I made every attempt to “make (extra) apparent to those around me,” in the doctor’s offices, grocery stores, and at home “the gentleness of God.” (And asked for grace and forgiveness when I did not!) He promised He is near. During the waiting and trials process after the first week of attack, my mind and heart were at peace. It was well with my soul.
Praise God, all was well with the tests! The screening doctor said, “you’re perfect.” And I praised God. Hallelujah! Right there, I worshipped Him. And the doctor smiled.
One Secret to God’s Supernatural Peace
It’s so simple, but it’s three fold. Imagine that? Our triune and living God gives us a three-part instruction manual to the answer when seeking His peace.
- Rejoice in the Lord always.
- Let your gentleness be obvious to everyone.
- Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
AND THEN… the peace that passes all understanding is yours. Victory over your mind is yours!
Just try and get something wet ignited with fire. It’s nearly impossible. Let’s be so doused, soaked and saturated in the living water of Jesus that any fire-filled attack of the enemy over our lives and minds has no spark to fuel a fire. I pray for each of us that the only spark we carry to the world and our families is the everlasting flame of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus.
Let’s be saturated, living and loving vessels of His supernatural peace. He is, indeed, our Savior.
Have you ever prayed the “most dangerous prayer,” as I’ve heard it called by Pastor Rick Warren?
Have your lips and your heart ever cried out, “Use Me, Lord!” but you think you’re stuck in an unending season of homeschooling?
As I’ve contemplated His holiness and our humility this month to write this to you, dear sister, I can’t help but share with you a few encouraging revelations I’ve gleaned over the years.
Homeschooling Keeps Us Humble
This thing we do, the thing you, dear mama, do– knee deep and over your head at times (and I’m right there with you) called homeschooling is our place of humility. We surely know that the Holy Spirit will convict us through words we speak to our children. Over and over again. (Thank the Lord for His grace!) It’s a place we’re brought humbly to our knees (even if that looks like the driver’s seat of our minivans) to ask repeatedly- each and every day, “Jesus, help!” We know that without Him, this homeschool is nothing.
Humility is remembering our place in the Lord, but not shying away from our role and place in His Kingdom here on Earth. I had a Bible college teacher say: “we’ve often got this humility thing all wrong. We think being humble means hiding our true selves, whom God has called and created us to be, under a banner of ‘The Lord has it, I’m just going to be humble and shy and do nothing.’ Quite the contrary! Humility means yes, put our pride aside and know the Lord Almighty is in control, and to give Him all the glory! But it also means to step out confidently in the Lord into who He has called you to be, and the plans upon your lives!” If He’s called you to homeschool, then your plans as a homeschooling family are to be His Light in this world, together. ” When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” — Proverbs 11:2”
Let’s humbly seek the Lord for His wisdom, but then “GO!” into the World as the Lord has commanded us!
” And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3 NIV
Mamas, It doesn’t say “your whole home(school) is full of His glory! It says the whole earth! Do you know just a couple verses under those often quoted words where we sing holy, holy, holy, that the Lord asked Isaiah : Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And Isaiah responded, ” Here am I. Send Me!”
The Earth is Filled with His Glory!
Remember that dangerous prayer? Have you asked to be sent? This is your opportunity! When was the last time you took yourself, and your children, on an adventure to see some of the glory covering His earth? Are you out in nature regularly, even if just for a walk or a picnic? How about exploring other places? Maybe studying His creation and other cultures? Are we really getting our children out to see some of this Earth full of His glory?
What are we doing to be sent- getting into the world- as an answer to that dangerous prayer I’m sure so many of us have said? See, mamas, this homeschooling thing, it’s about being available, hands raised high, for expanding His Kingdom here on Earth. I bet you’ve prayed that prayer sometime in your life. And maybe you’ve said to yourself, “the Lord will use me when we get done with this homeschooling season.” But, friends, the time is now! What if that prayer gets answered through your children and your homeschooling? I personally think homeschool is a misnomer. We’re hardly home, and it certainly doesn’t look like school. And that, my friends, is the Lord’s great blessing of freedom in your education in this season!
Homeschooling Is Holy
This homeschool thing is already holy. It’s set apart. It’s different from the world’s systems, and we’re raising up an army of His warriors! Let’s get them trained and out in the world as to how to respond to it, while they’re still home with us under our wings. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 Ask the Lord, my friends, is this the time? Could you really use me during our homeschooling season?
Think about the story of Gideon. He was hiding from the world, and from the call of the Lord. Yet, the angel knew Gideon was a mighty man of valor. How about you, mama? Are you hiding from the call of the Lord to get out with your families into this big, wide, world, yet He sees you as a mighty warrior leading your army for Him?
He Was and Is and Is to Come
…Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8
If the Lord says it in the Old Testament and He says it in the New, we should certainly pay attention. He was and is and is to come. Let’s use this “is” season we’re in to show our children His glory around the world, not just in our homes, while we educate them on the ways of the Lord. Embrace your gifts and use them for His good. Where do you think He’s calling your family to reach out? I’m sure it will be through the gifts He’s given you, and your children, as strange and puzzling as they may be. (Here’s a little glimpse at one of our family’s outreaches.)
I believe in you, mamas, and I know the Lord does, too. Keep humbling yourselves under His mighty hand and He will exalt you. All for His glory.
Vaya Con Dios-
I’m #NotAFan of processed mustard. In fact, I hate the stuff. I can’t even stand it if it’s on my plate or near anything that I’m about to consume and I cringe when I serve it to my husband and my boys. For years, I had a hard time processing the parable of the mustard seed because of my distaste of the processed condiment.
But in the many verses where Jesus talks about a mustard seed, he’s giving us so much more than a condiment. His words are delivering some of the meatiest bread of life through scripture! Because of my dislike of mustard- yellow, Dijon, brown, honey, spicy, any kind you can imagine- Jesus’ choice of seed description has always fascinated me. Why mustard seeds, Lord, why not marigold, dill, orchid, or even carrot for that matter?
“Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 NIV
When I was a little girl, my mom gave me a little necklace that had a little round mustard seed inside of a square glass casing. It was kind of like a locket that was always visible in a window but didn’t open. I never really thought about that necklace again until this month, when my nine-year-old miracle son Luke started helping in the garden.
Luke loves being out there with daddy, elbow deep in the dirt, sowing tiny seeds and collecting the fruits and flowers of his labor. He also wants to take after mom and big brother and have a website. He’s decided he wants to sell his garden herbs, flowers and seeds to give the money to kids in need. The thought, feel, sounds and scents and work to get to the abundance of a garden and these heirloom seeds have led me to contemplate that mustard seed story again. (We have a ton of beautiful dill growing in the garden. Not a fan of dill, either, but wow are the dill plants gorgeous- and HUGE!)
Deeper roots of faith are becoming deeper rooted in my heart through the work of a nine-year-old sower and my husband. The thought that one plant, and all of its collective one seeds- can produce thousands of new plants, even without work from us at times, it quite frankly miraculous.
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” Luke 17:6 NIV
But, Jesus, why mustard? I did some digging. In Bible times, the Palestinian farmers whom Jesus was surely addressing when He talked about mustard would have highly valued this crop. They likely sowed it in their fields for its edible green leaves (kind of like chard) and it also propagated itself by the winds. Its flowers would have been key for pollenating and attracting bees, which then produced sweet honey.
Have you ever seen a field of mustard growing? It’s astonishing. On one of our adventures to Napa Valley, one of the premier wine regions in the world, I had a life-changing encounter with mustard. Another reason for this crop’s immense value was revealed to me.
I could hardly breathe the pollen from the mustard was so intense. I don’t typically suffer from allergies but the pollen was so intense I was sneezing, itching with burning eyes. Yet I spent hours just thinking, sitting and praying in fields of mustard. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the scene, even beyond my sneezing itchy watery eyes.
You see, in the vineyards, mustard is a crucial part of growing a great crop. The farmers are so thankful for the mustard that acts as a cover crop to protect the grounds in between their main crop to produce the years best fruit. We know ancient farmers also grew grapes. Could it be that part of Jesus’ reference to mustard was also because it abides in the vine?
It really hit me – if Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, abiding in him to bear fruit – the mustard is also a literal representation of that. The mustard (our mountain-moving faith) is alive while abiding in the vines, between the branches! The branches of the vines thrive with these fields of mustard. The best fruit of the valuable grape harvest is produced by having a symbiotic relationship with essentially, the mustard weed. Our faith.
Isn’t that just like our faith sometimes – full of so many weeds – things that we can’t even stand the taste of, like my dislike of the mustard. If we’re honest, don’t we have bitter places in our faith? But yet, even with a tiny seed of faith, we are hanging out as covering for others, even if we may not know it, allowing our surroundings to produce the best fruit. That’s radical grace. And oh, Jesus, I’m so grateful!
Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19, NIV & also Matthew 13: 31-32 & Mark 4: 30-31
I think that’s why Jesus use the illustration of the mustard and our faith. Come on, friends. The mustard seed parable is in the Word THREE times, so it will really sink in! Let’s continue to grow deeper roots that abide in Him and even blossom between Him, ultimately producing the best fruit.
It even makes me wonder why we all have such different tastes, and how vast our God is to create even our preferences differently. We don’t all like the same things, whether that’s food, music, art, nature scenes or even versions of the translated Word of God. Maybe, just maybe, things that seem bitter, or so tiny, to us may in fact become huge blessings to ourselves and to others through this amazing Kingdom of God where we reside when we abide.
There’s so much depth in comparisons to nature in the Bible, including the mustard seed. The deeper we dig, the more rooted in faith we become. I pray your journey takes you to new and profound depths, perhaps even to a field of mustard, and allows you to be a covering to many by your mountain-moving faith.
It was 3:00 am. The full moon shone out the window in a room smelling of lavender essential oil masking disinfectant and plastic sheets. I lay in the hospital chair-bed, gazing on the face of my sweet, sleeping nine-year old son connected to a beeping heart monitor and IV while we waited a seeming eternity for an emergency appendectomy. My mind began to swirl amidst the reality of what was happening. In between prayers and a few minutes of moonlit sleep, my mind battled two sets of words: the doctor with the poor bedside manner barking at my sweet boy, Luke Ezra, “you might die!” and the Word of God through James “Consider it all joy…”
It started as any other Tuesday morning when daddy was on the road: a whirlwind to get out the door. If we were on time, we’d only be 15-minutes-late for our homeschool PE co-op. After 9-year-old drop-off, I’ll take off my older son to go fishing with a buddy and then head to my Starbucks office for a quad half-caff iced espresso, two raw sugars, melted, in a venti cup of ice.
Feed and let out the dogs. Help get the Captain America socks on so there are no bumps in the toes. “Did you brush your teeth? Do you have your water? It’s hot out there. Did you remember your snack packs? Please put on your sunglasses and sunscreen. Did you pack all your fishing gear? Are the dogs back in their crates?” Yogurt smoothies grabbed from the fridge to drink on the car ride. Throw my laptop and protein bar in my backpack to make sure I get my writing deadlines accomplished in the two hours I’ll have in between drop-offs. We’ll have our morning prayers, a FaceTime call with dad and maybe a bit of conversation on the way, if there aren’t invisible Pokemon floating outside the minivan window in cyber space to be collected on the app. Deep breaths.
Consider it all joy, my sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. This morning, every Tuesday morning in fact, is a trial. The joy of the Lord is my strength, I remember as I drive mom’s taxi along our thirty minute drive, past the state park and the lighthouse with worship music playing in the background.
Two short hours later, one deadline checked off the list and a bit more caffeinated, we headed for Taco Tuesday and back home to the reverse routine, “put away your snack packs and fishing gear. Let the dogs out. I’ve got one more deadline, boys!”
Later that evening, Luke has a stomach ache. He said he’d fallen at co-op and twisted a muscle. At one point he really cried out in pain and he did throw up, but nothing really out of the ordinary when a kid gets a stomach bug. Warm bath and off to bed, he was feeling better.
The next morning, he still felt a little off but we rested. No vomiting, fever, or unusual signs. Thursday, we went about our morning errands. I said if he didn’t feel better after lunch we would go to the doctor. I knew something was off when he wouldn’t eat his Chick-Fil-A. Am I right? When your kid won’t eat his nuggets, mom, something is definitely wrong. We went to our regular doctor and he recommended we go to the nearest hospital for a cat scan.
Two horrific IV experiences and a gallon of internal dye consumed, I donned my lead vest and stayed with my son as the machine whirred around his belly. It was confirmed- acute appendicitis. That’s when the doctor told my son to “shut up kid, you might die!” and my prayer chain began. The joy of the Lord is my strength.
We transferred to the children’s hospital by ambulance, remembering to keep our joy along the way. “Look, honey. The nurse loves Jesus, too.” I pointed out the cross pendant on our ambulance attendant who assured me I’d “done everything right.” Luke giggled past his IV when the driver blared the lights and sirens.
During one of the longest nights of my life, I remembered over and over in my mind: Consider it all joy. By the grace of God, my husband made it to the hospital about the same time as our ambulance, and together with our son in between vital checks, nurses, IV beeps, interns and doctors, we remembered good times. We made the hospital staff and our son laugh. We shared our faith. We asked for prayers and shared updates across text prayer chains, social media and phone calls. And we prayed, considering our time together joy.
Friends and strangers alike stood beside us, brought us meals, and prayed with us at the hospital. The Lord surely had answered this mama’s nightly prayer for her boys “Will you go before him, Jesus and pave the way. Holy Spirit, stand beside him as my boy’s best friend. Papa God, stand behind him, always having his back.” Our pediatric surgeon and appointed pediatrician, both amazing women, let us know it was miraculous we caught this in time before his appendix ruptured, as it was “retrocecal.” Hidden. This serious and even life-threatening condition could have been easily missed. Consider it all joy.
Luke continued to recuperate in the hospital for 36 hours while we made the hospital staff smile and certainly recognize our faith. We played WiiU, napped, drank tons of gatorade and apple juice and colored some Psalms with our favorite markers. The staff said they were going to miss us. We’re making them thank you cards this week in homeschool.
There is no doubt in my mind that our daily practice remembering the joy of the Lord, considering it all joy, became our strength when we needed it most. We relaxed last week. Had spring break. Played with friends. I let social media slip and didn’t fret about it. In fact, it took me a few days to recuperate myself. And, I’ve considered it all joy. The rest of that verse reminds us “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Friends, this mama is grateful- so,so grateful. The trials of my Tuesday morning routine seem so trivial compared to the trials of the nights that followed. Yet, they were all trials and opportunities to practice joy. I’m committed to persevere through whatever comes my way, and continue to live by the motto “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” I pray you do the same.
It’s February, and love is in the air this month more than any other time of the year. When we step back to consider God’s love, really the entire Bible is his love letter to us. As moms, especially homeschool moms, we’re constantly showing our love to our families our husbands and others all around us.
Modeling God’s Love Through Service
The message of the God’s great love letter to us is LOVE and generosity, “For God so loved the world that He gave…” John 3:16
When we give to our families, our friends and others of our time, talents and resources, we are acting as God’s love in the flesh. When you feel like you just can’t give any more, moms. Remember that our Heavenly Papa gave us Jesus and Jesus gave it all. For us. So just keep giving and loving, holding fast to God’s promise in Proverbs 11:25, “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”
I have friends that ask me all the time how I keep going? I think it’s God’s super natural way of giving us more energy than the energizer bunny. In fact, I’m kind of tired of being compared to that silly commercial bunny, banging his drums together. Instead, I’ll hold fast to God’s word and promises. As I refresh others, He will refresh me. What God sends out will not return void. Just keep giving, mamas. It’s the Lord’s boomerang affect, only His multiples. If we keep refreshing others, then we ourselves are refreshed.
As a mama, what can we do for other moms and sisters in Christ, refreshing them to enter into God’s heart and love? It’s His promise, that we will be refreshed, yet it seems so impossible to give any more. Let’s face it ladies, this mommy thing. It’s hard. Add that with all the rest of the responsibilities of this nonstop society and we seem to be up against a mountain.
We’re all familiar with Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13: “ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” In those same first letter to the Corinthians, 16:18, Paul reminds us, ”For they refreshed my spirit and yours as well. Show your appreciation,therefore, to such men.” I say the same goes for our sisters. Refresh others and others will refresh you, come along side you and partner in this thing called life. It’s God’s Kingdom life.
We showcase God’s never ending love for us by refreshing others. What if we became extra super ultra generous with giving out God’s love? What If we started with giving more, a living example of God’s generosity to our children, to our sisters who we walk in this life with. We homeschool together in, hang out in MOPS groups, at co-op groups, Bible studies, park and play dates. In turn, are we giving our sisters more to take home to her own families, and being refreshed ourselves? I think so. In fact, I know so.
As I’m writing this, I’m riding in the car with three dear Christian sisters on our way to our third #LetYourWriteShine retreat. It seems that the more energy I put into making these events special, to refresh my sisters in Christ, asking the Lord to fill their hearts with God’s love through our events and sharing that with my Christian sisters, the more energy I have to do things in my every day life. I guess it’s just supernatural.
God’s love for us is unending. It’s hard for us to grasp how deep and high and wide. To be living as He did, the more we press into loving others, the more He shows up with his treasures for us.
Where is God stretching you to give more, sisters? I’d love to hear from you!
We hope this devotional series is blessing you in your motherhood and your walk with the Father. Please enjoy this printable coloring page, take a few minutes to slow down…breathe…remember God’s love for us is unending!
“The Lord inhabits the praises of his people.”
Since I first heard the “praise” theme for our devotionals this month, I haven’t stopped thinking about this quote. While it’s not exact scripture and more of a paraphrase of the rhythmic text in Psalm 22:3
“But You are holy,
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.”
I don’t know about you, but I need the Lord’s inhabiting of my life. I need His rhythms in my plans and steps. I need Him to abide with me as He promises. If the way to bring Him closer to me is by coming near to Him through praise, count me all in! I’ll be here, hands high, crying from the depths of my soul, the very inmost parts of my spirit, voice rising from the top of my lungs, “I need you more, come, Jesus, come! Inhabit my praises! Abide in me! I want You to be an atmosphere I carry through life!”
My first experience feeling the presence of God through praise was when my husband and I had a very rough season a few years ago. My pastor’s wife calls us, “the most supernatural couple she’s ever seen.” The Lord certainly healed our marriage supernaturally, inhabiting our praises. Through this season, I could’ve chosen to withdraw and especially be angry with God. Instead, my husband and I both chose to draw closer, raise hands higher and praise Him, moment by moment, praising, worshipping and thanking Him right through tears.
Since then, I’ve really learned, and chosen, to recognize and feel God’s abiding presence with me day after day. I seek for places to give Him glory, in all I do. I remember that old Bible school song,
“Praise Him, Praise Him. Praise Him in the morning, praise Him in the noon time. Praise Him, Praise Him. Praise Him when the sun goes down.”
No matter our circumstance, it is with head held high and eyes lifted up that the Lord abides with us. Mamas, our families and our children take note of these praises and can’t help but be affected by the indwelling of our sweet Lord and Savior with their mom. You know, it will rub off and get soaked deep down in their beings and some day, they’ll too recall the songs, words and praises their mom sent our Savior, just like I recall those Bible song lyrics. Through my prodigal years and all the way back around to being sold out, on fire, arms high for Jesus, He surely took note of those sweet praises of my youth and has blessed me, and my family as He dwells among us, and you, through our praises.
Here are a few practical ways I praise Him morning, noon, and night.
I don’t even get out of my bed in the morning before I talk to my Papa.
I praise Him, I thank Him and I ask Him for strength for the day before I even roll out of bed, make my coffee, walk the dogs, open the app with my Bible reading plan or even kiss my family good morning.
My day becomes an active conversation with God.
As a busy wife, mom, blogger, travel writer, homeschooler, volunteer, board vice-chair, all of the hats that I wear (and I know you wear, too)… it’s hard to set aside time to “pray without ceasing” as Paul says. But don’t we know our God knows our schedule, too? My prayers become constant and active conversation with my best friend. I speak, and expect Him to answer, and He does. In thoughts, words, through people, surroundings, and experiences. When I had the blessing of traveling to Greece last year, I learned something significant about Paul’s preaching to the Corinthians. He did it in the marketplace. His praises were raised and messages were given to the people right in the center of town, right in the midst of craziness amid the chaos of every day life of grocery shopping, trading wares, and entertainment. There was Paul, shouting out his praises to our Lord. I want to be like Paul, in a constant and unashamed state of praise.
Worshipping Him in the Minivan.
The car rides as a busy mom seems to be never ending. So, let’s use that time as just part of our day to invite him to inhabit our lives. Turn on the worship music. Singing out loud, our hope in Him affects the minds and hearts of our children and, hopefully, will stick with them as long as that Bible school song has stuck with me. I love Seeds Family Worship because their songs are simply scripture set to music. (I think personally I’ve memorized more verses this way than any other!) One time, we had VBS songs on in the car while we were transporting a construction worker! I’ll never forget the look on his tattooed face and can only pray God’s presence of our praises rubbed off on him!
Praise Him Publicly.
Last week, I was at a theme park with a group of seven kids and before we ate I said, “Ok, who’s praying?” Some of the kids said, “I prayed in my mind.” I said, “well, we praise Him aloud.” And that’s just what we did, holding hands, right there, in the LEGOLAND diner. We pray every time we eat out. I want my kids and those I influence and encounter to know He is worthy, at all times and in all places. I hope my simple example of prayer at the theme park can leave that mark in each mind and heart.
Whatever your way of praising Him morning, noon, and night, I pray that He comes to inhabit your lives, hearts and families more than ever before and you recognize and feel His presence through your praises. Maybe there’s some things I haven’t thought of that you do, too?