Controlling the Controllables…and leaving the rest to God

by Lindsey Wingo (Keep reading below for a special announcement!)

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Recently I was sitting in a session for minister’s wives as Kay Warren shared this simple truth:

“Control the controllables, and leave the uncontrollables to God.” – Kay Warren

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks, while at the same time, lifted a heavy burden from my back!

Sometimes motherhood, marriage, and the uncertainty of the future feels heavy to me. And when I find myself overwhelmed in the midst of it all, my natural tendency is to seek control however I can find it.

I shouldn’t be surprised by that reality. It’s a problem women have had since the garden days. It is a constant battle for me to surrender my family and our future to the Lord.

The truth is, the natural desire of my flesh is to control the ones I love and fit them into the mold I have created for them. But this is nothing more than a false idol in my life that must be laid on the altar daily. Do I really believe that my thoughts are superior to God’s? That my way is best? My actions and words tell that story far too often. And because I know this is an issue rooted deeply in the hearts of most women, I know I am not alone in this struggle.

Mommas, I’ve been convicted it is time to lay down the heavy burden of control. Most of the things we try our best to control we are completely incapable of controlling in the first place! Continue reading →

Showing hospitality when your floors are sticky

by Laura

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They spread a mat on the concrete floor of their two room apartment in South Asia. We ate rice with our hands from cardboard plates that were wrapped in aluminum foil.  She cooked chicken. An extravagant dish for their home, intended for celebrations.  When we came though, she always cooked chicken to show us honor.   South Asian hospitality is overwhelmingly generous.  In their culture, having guest eat in your home is considered a tremendous honor. It humbled me every time we would eat with them. It reminded me of the way that the gospel levels all the socio-economic barriers and brings us, rich, poor and in between, as servants together of the King. When we share a meal together, we share a little of our lives with one another.

Recently, I have been learning more about sacrifices through a study on the book of Hebrews. This past year, we moved from a country where people still offer animal sacrifices at certain times of the year.  Throngs of goats were herded into our city each year and sacrificed, their blood running into the streets.  The provision of Jesus as a final sacrifice, the blood better than all the former sacrifices that were offered year after year, is breathtaking in that context. The original readers of the New Testament would have understood it far more potently than we do.

In the final chapter of Hebrews, showing hospitality to strangers is listed as among the sacrifices that are now pleasing to God. Jesus spills His blood for us, makes the final sacrifice, and sits down at God’s right hand.  The work is done, the New Covenant of grace takes root and the sacrifice is finished for those who believe.  And then, God instructs us to be hospitable? To be honest, a call to hospitality seems a startling contrast at the end of such a book. Changing bedsheets and shredding chicken for a casserole don’t seem particularly holy on most days for me.  Hospitality with little people might mean watermelon juice spilt on the floor right after you’ve mopped. Yet, the Word calls it a pleasing sacrifice.   Continue reading →

Don’t Forget to Remember

by Leslie Hollowell

When Motherhood Feels Thankless

by Amy Wootton

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Relational Sincerity

by Ashley Veneman

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I have run from this post. Truly, I didn’t want to write it and I’ve told the Lord many times over the past few months how I would prefer he remove this prompting. “What if I phrase this in the wrong way, God? What if your message is distorted through my lack of eloquence? What if Satan warps these words into someone hearing them as indictments or finger pointing?” All of these thoughts I have offered up in prayer, and still, I cannot get this subject from my mind. Instead, God has only brought me face-to-face with the issue at an accelerated rate. So before we start, if you think I’m writing something from a judgmental place, I beg you to deny that thought. Instead, I am writing from a place of brokenness and concern. I am by no means an authority here – but as an act of obedience, and as a message to myself, first, and then to my fellow sisters – here we go.

We live in a time where small businesses, and direct-sales marketing has caught on like wildfire. I have no problem with this at all! I know it is a tool being used to provide for families, and that is a wonderful gift. However, if we are known to evangelize anything more than we evangelize Christ, we need to be very careful to examine our platform and the motives we have for reaching out to people around us. As believers, we must be so careful not to slip into a place of manipulative interpersonal communication for material gain.

So why is this an issue burned so deeply into my heart? I am a mom of young children. I stay at home with my kids and I love it, but it can also be a very isolating season of life. Thankfully, I’m blessed with incredible, authentic, and deep friendships. These ladies keep me sane, pray me through difficulties, and point me to the Lord. We desperately need these kinds of intimate friendships. We need people who want to know us, and love us anyway. I am blessed with more of these friendships than I deserve – but what God has been showing me lately, is that many women don’t feel quite as blessed with true, deep friendships. They are longing for that kind of connection, and they want someone who wants to know them. This brings me to our current topic.

Last year, I was approached 48 different times from various direct-sales initiatives. In over 20 of these instances, the person reaching out had not contacted me in over 2 years. Several times, it was from a person I hadn’t heard from in over a decade. The sales aspect is not a problem to me, not in the least. Sales and marketing are a part of the fabric of entrepreneurship in our country. The area of heartache I have, are the dozen or so times the person contacting me did so under the guise of wanting to get to know me better or spend time with me. After finding out I was not interested in their product, their interest in me disappeared. Ten of these instances were from women who are strong believers. Continue reading →

A Legacy of Sincere Faith

by Caroline Saunders

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Whether or not she meant to, Mom passed on her sweet tooth to me, and now we know beyond any doubt that if one of us mentions ice cream, the other one is going to go grab the spoons. And we have inadvertently passed this down to my daughter, who, if you are eating ice cream, will pretend like she wants to cuddle with you, but beware—she does not care a thing about you. She’s stealing your ice cream. She’s a sinner. An adorable, sugar-crazed sinner.

And we’re all sugar-crazed sinners I suppose, in desperate need of ice cream but infinitely desperate for God. In my experience, the fastest way to realize that you need God is to become a mother. (It’s also the fastest way to realize you need ice cream.)

When I first became a mom, I was taken aback by how intense my love was for my daughter. It was overwhelming, smothering. I had never been entrusted with anything so precious in my whole life. Then we added my too-cute-for-his-own-good son, and my brain just about exploded.

I was reading in 2 Timothy, as well as one with a nearly-exploded brain can, and one phrase in particular resonated with me: “sincere faith.” Paul writes to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5).

The legacy of faith passed down from Lois to Eunice to Timothy was so significant that it laid the foundation for Timothy to become as close as a son to one of the most influential Jesus followers of all time: the Apostle Paul. Paul affectionately entrusted Timothy with wisdom that is still precious to the modern church. I imagine that Lois had no idea the kind of return her investment in Eunice would eventually bring. Isn’t it incredible what a legacy of sincere faith can do?

I want this, too. I want this, more than ice cream, more than anything: a sincere faith to pass on to my daughter and son. Continue reading →

When You Need More Than Flowers & Chocolate

by Jenny Stricklin

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Hopefully the day after Mother’s Day finds you to be a happy, well-loved, content momma who is confident in her God-given role of raising and shaping the character of your little people.

Truth be told, on the regular days of the year, I’m a little skeptical of my own mothering ability.  And not because we eat way too many chicken nuggets around here or only manage to bathe every couple days.  Like, amidst the joyful moments of mothering my boys, there’s this persistent feeling that maybe I’m doing it wrong—or even just not as “right” as I should be. And since I can’t know for certain that they’re gonna turn out okay, what if they don’t?

On a good parenting day, these little wonderings can trip me up. But throw in any kind of variable—a strong willed child, uncertainty about how to discipline, losing my temper, dealing with a diagnosis, even just a good rush of hormones —and these lingering lies start to make me walk with a limp.

A couple years back I was exhausted from shouldering the weight of my worries and weak from dodging the jabs of the enemy. My stomach was knotted tight as I tried to untangle the doubts that had come as a result of some things we were walking through with one of my boys. The kids were in bed, and my husband was away for the evening, and in my desperation, I plopped down and opened my Bible.

Experience had taught me that the Lord was close in times like this, and I knew He had something to say.

And I wanted – needed – a word from Him. Of comfort. Of direction. Of hope. Anything really. So I cried out to Him, and mercifully, He lead me to Isaiah 44:2-5 and gave me four things to pray and believe Him for when my feelings try to be the boss:

“Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant,
O dear Israel, my chosen one.” (vs 2)

He saw where my heart was that night and spoke straight to it. “Don’t be scared, Jenny.” If anyone else had said it, I’d probably think, “Well, easy for you to say!” But the God who DOES see into the future and Who knows me cover to cover has a right to say it. So I decided to listen. I chose that night to put my confidence in Him even BEFORE I saw His hand move in my situation. Lord, give me faith instead of fear.

“For I will pour out water to quench your thirst
and to irrigate your parched fields.” (vs 3)

Really?? You will, God? I found myself questioning. But I knew the answer. He had the kind of water that would quench my soul thirst. I was emotionally depleted and needed replenishment. And here He was offering it. I’ll take it, Lord. Help me drink deeply of You and be refreshed.

“And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children. They will thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank.” (vs 4)

I read these words and burst into tears. That’s all I need Lord! Just give them your Spirit and that’s enough!

Because I knew that with the Spirit, my children would have:

  • All that the Spirit produces (The fruit of the spirit – Gal 5:22-23)
  • A constant comforter (John 14)
  • Help in recalling truth about God when they need it (John 14:26)
  • A counselor Who will guide them and convict them of sin (John 16)
  • Power to accomplish the mission of God (Acts 1:8)
  • An intercessor Who prays for them according to the will of God (Romans 8)
  • Freedom to see and reflect the glory of the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:17)
  • Eternal life (John 6:63)

There is literally NOTHING I want more for my kids than for them to possess these things. I get tired when I try to take on the role of the Spirit.  Lord, don’t delay! Fill my kids with your Spirit.

Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the Lord.’
Others will say, ‘I am a descendant of Jacob.’
Some will write the Lord’s name on their hands
and will take the name of Israel as their own.” (vs 5)

Through that last verse, He whispered the confirmation I needed that night: “Jenny, your boys will submit themselves wholly to the Lord, and will live for His interests, His people, and His name’s sake.”

Isn’t that just a miracle any way you look at it? That we as imperfect, needy moms, can with the Lord’s help, raise up children that are honoring to Him.

Lord, I believe I am not powerful enough to derail your plan and purposes. Accomplish your will in my kids’ lives.

I learned that night (again) that God’s Word is life. His words brought courage and peace. And when I get suspicious of my own ability, I must get to Him to hear what He says about my reality.

So when the Mother’s Day chocolate and flowers run out, or when you need a boost of confidence in the motherhood department, plop down with the Word and beg Him to speak.

Jenny Stricklin

Jenny Stricklin

Continue reading →

More Than Conquerors: Battling Lies God’s Way

by Melody Merritt

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We are in a battle!

Last Wednesday I was on the battlefield and I was losing the battle. I woke up that morning in a fog from allergies and sinus pressure. After medication the fog began to lift, but I was weak physically and mentally. I left home with just a quick reading of devotion and sailed into the day. Then I received an email that sent me down the road of thinking that I was not doing all I should be doing at work. I went to my second job of housecleaning. As I began to clean, it seemed as if a wet blanket fell on me with thoughts of not being good enough or valued. I felt like there was a recording by my ear repeating different negative thoughts.

I finally realized I was entertaining lies.

I know who I am in Christ. I am a daughter of the King, fearfully and wonderfully made, redeemed, forgiven, sanctified, a new creation. But right then I was overwhelmed by the schemes of the enemy, listening to the lies.

After a few hours of this I sent out a SOS text to a friend asking for prayer. All I told her was that I was feeling overwhelmed and listening to the lies of the enemy. She sent a quick text back that she was praying for me and told me to read Ephesians. And then I ran into another friend who prayed with me, and I began to feel the fog lifting. I went home and sat down with my Bible and read the book of Ephesians. My joy and peace returned.

Has this scenario or a similar one ever happened to you? It might not be an email about work. You might be weary and worn out from lack of sleep or tired from a busy schedule. It might be a social media post that sends you down the path of thinking you are not being a good mom. You may begin to compare your husband to someone else’s. Do you entertain thoughts like, he looks better, he’s more romantic, more helpful, their marriage is better? It doesn’t take much to get the old recorder started.

Are we in a losing battle? No! Is there anything we can do? Yes! As a believer in Jesus Christ we are fighting from victory. He has won the war! John 16: 33 tells us, “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” But we have an enemy, the devil, who is out “to steal, kill, and destroy.” (John 10:10)

We are told in Ephesians 6:10-18, to “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might, put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

And if you are harboring any sin in your life, bring it to Jesus. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

There are four areas of our lives that the enemy attacks us in: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. Let’s take a look at each area and form our battle plan.

Continue reading →

Spiritual Shelter

by Erin Mullen

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“Every prayer and every sigh which you have uttered for [your descendants] and their future welfare will, in God’s time, descend upon them as a gentle rain of answers to prayers.” – OLE Hallesby (1879-1961), Norwegian pastor and writer

“And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (Christ), each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of fragrant incense, which are the prayers of the saints (God’s people).” Here in Revelation 5:8, we are given a picture of the “prayers of the saints” being held in “golden bowls full of fragrant incense.”

And every “Oily Mom” said, “AMEN!” No, but seriously. In a world of endless essential oil treatment combinations and diffusers of all shapes and sizes, I do not have to explain the imagery presented here of these stored up, continuously burning prayers. Ever before Him. Cherished in the most valuable of bowls. Not one prayer spilt. Not one prayer wafted away.

There is part of me that would like to glamourize this heavenly oil diffuser session, thinking it would be the sweetest and best of all concoctions this world has ever known. But there is another part of me that wonders what prayers with tears and sorrow would smell like? What do prayers of anger, resentment, and worry bring to the mix? Frankly, this mysterious book of the Bible does not give us any additional adjectives, besides “fragrant,” leaving it still very elusive.  

The fact remains, these prayers were essential enough to the 24 elders that this bowl and a harp is what they brought, facedown, to the Most High.

Prayer in one hand and Praise in the other says a lot.

So, can I be honest here? For the last nine months, my “prayer closet” has deliberately been designated within the four doors and behind the wheel of my old but reliable Honda Odyssey. No, I am not quiet-timing and driving. You see, I am like many moms with multiple kids. With multiple kids comes multiple carlines (twice-a-day I might add). And with that, there is always gap time.

For a while I could grab 45 minutes at home for my quiet time during this gap time, but my youngest spent the majority of it begging me to head to her school. So, the routine began. Drop two kids off at the elementary school and then drive on to the next drop off and be first in line.  And that is where I would invite the Lord to come and meet with me. In the middle of my smelly, crumb-filled, gray van, the Lord would graciously “draw near” (James 4:8) and “incline His ear to me” (Psalm 116:2), and I to Him. There were days I am sure my prayers smelt more like burning sage and less like lavender and chamomile. Continue reading →

Staying the Course in Times of Failure

by Rey Cooke

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Mom’s illness had worn me out emotionally and physically. My best prayer times were spent in the car traveling back and forth to her home. Sleep was interrupted with worry, fear, hurt feelings, guilt, and anger. Even though I shared the responsibility of caring for Mom with my brother and sister, I still felt overwhelmed and sad.

I longed to be at home with my husband and family; to watch my grandchildren play ball on the weekends. I listened to praise music and sermons online when I could, but nothing replaced my church. I felt as if I was slowly drifting away from my life. When I was with Mom I wanted to be somewhere else, and when I wasn’t with her I felt guilty and torn.

The hospital days were long. I didn’t expect her to make it out. We were given the worst news about her condition; almost every organ was in total failure!  “Why hadn’t she taken better care of herself?” Angry thoughts drifted through my mind driving a wedge between God and me—not because He moved away from me, but I’m ashamed to say, I moved away from God.

The tide turned, Mom slowly began to regain some strength and her heart function increased to 19 percent. We began to be hopeful that she would make it out of the hospital, but we knew her life would be radically different. She would no longer be able to live independently, which meant an adjustment for me and my siblings.

I wasn’t prepared for the roller coaster of emotions I would go through when she returned home. We began to make arrangements to put her home on the market and get her and her husband settled in a Continuing Care Community.

The volcano inside of me finally blew when I overheard my mother telling her friend that we were taking all of her things. I snapped at her, forgetting how sick she was and how the medication altered her perspective. I was surprised at what popped out of my mouth—not Holy Spirit led, but my flesh in all of its glory!   Continue reading →