With All My Mind

By Wendy Anderson Schulz
With all my Mind


Bookstore shelves are lined with titles about our minds. Dozens of titles tout the benefits of positive thinking.  Dozens more proclaim you can change your life by changing your thinking.  I have to admit that I have been guilty of walking past these shelves and judging these titles harshly.  I have thought, “I have Jesus, I don’t need you.” I gave little thought to my own mind or thought processes.

A year ago I found myself in a dark and difficult season, including a scary health diagnosis, an end to a job, and a departure from our faith community. Like a house of cards, many things in my life seemed to be falling around me.  I cried out to the Lord in new ways as I faced fear, anger, and confusion.  I asked the Lord to help me put back the pieces of my life and help me navigate the next steps I needed to take.  

I believed this rebuilding season would start with a call to perhaps study scripture more, or to spend more time in prayer, or to confess my sins, and all those things did eventually happen. But the Lord showed me that my rebuilding season had to start with my mind.  

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  Matthew 22:37

I had been faithful for years in starting my day in the Word and with prayer. Now the Lord was showing me that one hour of studying His Word was not enough to combat 23 hours a day of letting my thoughts be threaded and polluted with lies I had allowed in from the evil one.

I had guarded my heart and soul but had left my mind wide open to many lies.

Lies of self-doubt.

Lies about my worth. 

Lies of fear about my future.

Through studying the Word, the Lord showed me that He desires for us to love Him with all our hearts, and our souls AND our minds.  It is not a buffet where you can choose to love the Lord in your heart but not your mind, or vice versa. We are His Beloved, and He wants all three.

The truth was, my mind was out of spiritual shape.  The closest parallel I could understand was comparing my mind to my body.  With the “work” of exercise, the addition of good “food,” and the subtraction of “junk,”  I could start to get my mind in better shape. This allowed me to love the Lord my God with all my mind, as well as my heart and soul.  

So I set out on a “Mind Boot Camp” of sorts.  Here’s what I did: Continue reading →

Honoring God with Your Health

by Heather Neese

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As believers, it is of great importance to remove the filth from our hearts. We believe the biblical truth that the heart “is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). We make intentional efforts to ask the Lord to purify us, cleanse our hearts and renew our minds, in order to focus more clearly on uninterrupted communion with Him.  Over the past several years, the Lord has challenged me to see how taking care of my body – and the bodies entrusted to me as a wife and mother – is of essential importance to my spiritual growth as well.

As a self-proclaimed Crunchy-Granola-Girl (or whatever your term is for the crazy organic people), I want to share how nutritional wellness has impacted my life both practically and spiritually.   

When I was approaching the age of two, my mother was pregnant with another baby.  At almost five and a half months pregnant, she miscarried.  Due to the complications of her particular condition, she almost died.  Losing all but one unit of blood, she was given a complete blood transfusion, which saved her life.  The same life-saving blood carried with it a virus that attacked her liver, and would later cause her to make a huge life-altering choice.  

Upon testing positive for this particular virus, she was given one treatment option. She could take a drug with the potential of harsh side effects without a high success rate for this particular illness that would at the very best “buy her time.”

Because they were Christians, my parents sought the Lord’s guidance.  In a matter of a week’s time, He led them to an alternative route of treatment for my mother – one that drastically changed her life and in-turn, my own.

My mother was given guidance to completely clean out the pantry, begin eating God’s food, and boost her immunity to the most intense degree for healing and maintenance.

Because I grew up in the midst of this, organic food and nutritional health became second nature to me.  What began as commonplace has developed into a far greater passion as the years have gone by.  Upon having my own children, further research on this topic led me to see eating well as more than something you do to just stay healthy.  I began to see how this part of my life could also be offered as an act of spiritual worship to God.    

As moms, we live each day with a desire to nourish our families spiritually and practically.  With as much time as we spend grocery shopping, meal planning, and on our feet in the kitchen, doesn’t it make sense to be as intentional and purposeful as possible in this area of life?

I want to point out practical and biblical looks into healthy eating, that may encourage all of us to rise to a higher calling in taking care of the physical bodies God has so graciously blessed us with while on this earth.   Continue reading →

When You Need to Find Joy

by Lee Stewart

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I used to assume the control types were all “Type A” managers with bossy demeanors and spreadsheet fetishes. These assumptions came undone when I first became responsible for a very small, very dependent baby. In spite of his small stature and helpless dependence, this person wielded remarkable influence over my time, my space, and my attitude. And I realized I desperately wanted, but desperately lacked any ultimate control.

Sometimes it’s there in the small stuff (stuff they tell us not to sweat), that I get to see what I’m made of. I get to see what a controller I am. In my mind, I know it’s small stuff, but I also know the Bible says the little foxes are the ones who spoil the vines.

Sin crouches at the door. It crouches at the door and it doesn’t care if the door is made of simple stuff or serious stuff. Sin is waiting to devour me. 

Many days things happen all at once. If we could just take each incident one at a time, we’d succeed, right? But it doesn’t happen like that. It’s a downpour.

I remember a situation when I had an infant, and my other two kids were 6 and 3.  There was a “Code Brown” incident, as I unaffectionately call it. All the Cheerios fell on the floor, peanut butter ended up in my hair, and the baby needed his diaper changed. On the way to the changing table, I crushed 32 Cheerios under my feet and tried to ignore the smell of peanut butter. In the middle of the diaper change, the baby pooped some more and before I could stop it, the poop hit the wall and landed proudly on a stack of clean diapers.

In the meantime, I had one child telling me of an injustice done by the other child. I wasn’t in the room to see it for myself because of the Code Brown. So I wasn’t quite sure how the whole thing went down and of course, each sweet little face was sporting innocence. And then the baby started crying again, because it was time for another diaper change. And by the time I had reached the end of that rope, I didn’t even know what kind of person I was. I mean in those moments, I’m not feeling anything that feels like “good mom” or “mom who knows Biblical truth.”

I’m such a sanctified, nice mom when nothing happens to be bothering me! But then the Code Brown sort of incidents happen and I’m like, “Who is THAT mom? Where did my sanctified-self go?! And which mom is the REAL me?”

When life squeezes me, I have trouble counting it all joy. Patience flees the scene. It’s like my theology is being shoved up against me, insisting that I live it out, or toss it out.

These instances remind me of Alexander on his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Motherhood, like life, is fraught with comedy and sorrow and everything in between.

I love these words from C.S. Lewis: “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

The way I respond to things is going to stem from the sort of person I am. The way I view a situation is going to depend on where I am standing. What bubbles over is going to depend on what sort of things are hidden in my heart.

Who I am is going to be shaped by what I fear and what I love.

In those chaotic situations, I have finally found a few ways to help me grab on to the sanctified version of myself, rather than letting the grouchy version take over.

First of all, don’t start analyzing what kind of mother you are during those moments. Instead, diffuse the moment. Lighten up! Laugh. Laugh at the slapstick-comedy-act that is motherhood. Also, sing out loud. Just burst into song! Music is a basic universal language, but it’s also a supernatural thing. And you know what? Sometimes doing something cheerful helps us actually become cheerful. Don’t wait until you FEEL joyful before doing joyful things. Go about it the other way around.

Then there’s prayer. Prayer is something I’m learning to do like breathing. I just confess to God my weakness, right then and there, either mentally or verbally. I let my children witness firsthand what it looks like for me to NEED the Lord.

“Dear Lord, I am frustrated. Help me love like you love. Help me remember how you made yourself nothing. Help me remember you had nowhere to lay your head. Help me remember that you stepped into the mess that was my soul and redeemed it. Help me remember you can relate to me, even in this crazy moment, because the Bible says you were tempted in all ways, just like I am, yet you were always without sin.”

Face the LORD when confronted with the last straw. Face the Lord when you feel like you’re losing control and losing your joy.

Control wrings its hands, but love does something altogether different. Love bears all things. Fear the Lord more than you fear yourself and your failures. Respect the power the Lord has over you more than you tremble at the power of your own sin. Remember Jesus died for all of that already. That work is done. Don’t minimize its significance. He lives in you now, and He’s determined to make you like Him. It’s happening even now.

“The cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15

Lee Stewart

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Commit and Trust

by Jean Stockdale

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Joshua called upon two men to go and “view the land, especially Jericho” (Josh. 2:1). In light of Joshua’s own personal experience as a spy, he surely sought the counsel of the Lord and carefully chose two men of valor with stellar reputations of courage, character, and candor. We can assume that these men accepted their discharge of duty with staunch military bravado. We can also imagine that they quickly turned to the Lord, asking Him to bless their covert mission with His glorious protection and divine direction and to graciously grant them success.

As mommas, we too have been given a divine directive and we would be wise to learn from Joshua and the men that served him. Although God had instructed Joshua to take the land, Joshua did not take a passive role nor did he rush headlong without developing a strategy. Instead he set about formulating a master plan under God’s direction, instituting it, and using all the resources that were available to him. We too need to formulate a master plan for raising our children based upon the Word of God. Continue reading →

I’m Just a Martha

by Ashley Veneman

 

 

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Have you ever taken one of those personality tests? There are a million out there, but you know the ones I’m talking about. Depending on the test, you answer anywhere from a few questions to a survey a mile long. The results come back giving you a sense of insight into your individuality. These tests are supposed to tell you about your strengths and weaknesses, and potentially how to better evaluate your place in the world.

Recently, I was sitting with a group of ladies talking about those personality tests. Somewhere in the conversation, someone brought up a specific social-media based test that tells you which biblical personality you most closely resemble. The whole premise of the test is pretty amusing, but it made for a great conversation piece. Somewhere in the jumble of female voices, a woman across from me said with her head lowered, “Well, I’m just a Martha. I always wanted to be a Mary, but that’s just not me.”

I watched this woman and sat there thinking about what she was saying. “I’m just a Martha.” Her tone was so defeated as she thought about how she would never measure up to the perceived “Marys” all around her. You could practically hear the mental monologue in her mind as she compared herself to every other woman in the circle. Haven’t we all been there, sitting in a room of women who seem to have it all together? We’re just proud we walked in the door with clean clothes and a shower after a chaotic day.

I thought about this sweet lady’s words the next day, and went to read the narratives of Mary and Martha in the Bible. In Luke, we read about when Jesus visited the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. This is the story where some of Martha’s greatest flaws are on display:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42, NIV).

That visit wasn’t exactly Martha’s shining moment. Then I went to look at the other passage of scripture that highlights this family. I turned to John 11, and the verse my eyes fell on was this, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5, NIV).

Jesus loved Martha Continue reading →

Jesus Loves Me, This I Think

by Caroline Saunders

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She was afraid again, and I didn’t know what to do. Something about two and half—everything was suddenly scarier in her polka dotted bedroom, and the jolt from our regular, peaceful bedtime routine was starting to become somewhat of a nightmare for me, too. I was out of tricks. So I just held her close and tried to think of the antidote to fear.

Mom life does not provide ample opportunity for deep thinking, but it does provide ample opportunity for watching Frozen. That’s when it occurred to me: With fear, Elsa froze Arendelle, but with love, she thawed it. I spiritualize it every time: “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), perhaps out of a deep desire to redeem yet another hour lost to that movie. Oh, Olaf, leave me in peace!

That night playful snowmen were a world away. My poor girl was frozen in fear, unable to sleep yet again, and so I tried to speak thawing words over her. “Oh baby, Mommy loves you so much! And do you know who else loves you? Daddy loves you. Buddy loves you…” and I listed everyone that loves her. Every grandparent, every aunt and uncle, every cousin, every friend. I whispered their names into her hair, and with every name I felt her relax, her breathing deepen, and soon the room was filled with polka dots again instead of fear.

Then I reminded her of one more thing: “Oh and do you know who loves you the most? Jesus! He loves his Adelaide so much! He gave you a special smile and a special laugh, and every thing about you reminds us that he is such a good daddy. You are his girl, and he’ll never, ever stop loving you.”

Simple, obvious words, I suppose, but they choked me up somehow. Because maybe all Adelaide needed was to remember that she’s loved. Because maybe I needed to remember, too. That my people love me, that Jesus loves me.

We swaddle babies to help them rest, and perhaps we need to tightly wrap the fabric of truth around and around ourselves: We are loved.

Continue reading →

When Illness Strikes

by Donna Gaines

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It was August 6th of 2000 when late that evening, unable to sleep, I found myself kneeling before the chair in my bedroom crying out to the Lord.  “God, please protect and heal my husband.” My heart constricted as I thought of our four children who needed their father, and how I needed him. How could I finish raising our children on my own?  It was at that moment I sensed the presence of the Lord in a tangible way, as these words were impressed upon my heart: “I am your husband and your children’s father… I Am.” I began to weep.

My Heavenly Father had not promised me that my husband would be healed, but He had reassured me He is enough. He is able to meet my every need.

My husband, Steve, had been diagnosed the week before with Myasthenia Gravis.  It is an autoimmune disease that causes extreme muscle weakness and fatigue. He was undergoing a thymectomy the next day. This surgery is much like open-heart surgery.  The sternum is severed to remove the thymus gland, which in my husband’s case was enlarged and contained a tumor.  He had grown increasingly weak and was experiencing double vision. One eyelid was closing (ptosis) to eliminate the blurred vision. We were reeling from the symptoms and subsequent diagnosis. They seemed to come out of nowhere on my otherwise extremely strong and healthy, 42-year-old, pastor husband. 

Steve recovered from the surgery and the tumor was benign. We began the grueling process of finding medications and dosages that would control the symptoms, and hopefully send his disease into remission.  There were severe digestive issues due to the strong medications, sleepless nights and a reoccurrence of childhood asthma. After a trip to the emergency room on the way to a football game, his breathing difficulties were finally relieved.

As you know, diseases don’t announce their arrival and they don’t usually choose convenient times. Our son, and oldest child, was a senior in high school.  His three sisters ranged from an 8th grader to a 6th grader, and our youngest who was in the 3rd grade.  

Life doesn’t stop when illness strikes.  

Children still go to school and extra curricular activities. As the wife and mother, I was trying to keep the household running smoothly, all while protecting our children and keeping life as “normal” as possible.

I began baking homemade bread and seeking out organic ingredients before they were as readily available as they are now.  Life as we had known it became increasingly complicated.  We continued to pray for healing, and we did all we knew to do to help his body recover.

It has been almost 17 years since that surgery and diagnosis. Steve still has Myasthenia Gravis. We have found our God to be the “I Am” He reminded me He was and is.  

When my husband was too weak to preach, or even walk from his truck to the church, God would fill him with supernatural power when he stood behind the pulpit to preach.  Today, there are times we almost forget he has the disease, except for the daily regimen of medications.  He still must be careful about getting overheated or overly stressed – which we have laughed about since he is a pastor in Memphis, Tennessee (whose summers make you think you are in a sauna).

Those who have walked more physically challenging paths than we have bear witness to the fact that suffering reveals the foundation upon which we have built our lives.  

As Joni Eareckson Tada shared, “When suffering sandblasts us to the core, the true stuff of which we are made is revealed. Suffering lobs a hand-grenade into our self-centeredness, blasting our soul bare—but then, we can be better bonded to the Savior. Our afflictions have helped make us holy. And we are never more like Christ—never more filled with His joy, peace, and power—than when sin is uprooted from our lives.” 

God is faithful! He is good and He only does good. He is always at work conforming us to the image of His dear Son.  

What are you facing? If you live long enough, either you or someone you love will face a disease or a difficult doctor’s diagnosis. How will you deal with it? I can tell you from personal experience that the Lord is faithful and He is able! Lean in on Him and allow Him to meet your every need.

God’s Word is true: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). His power has been apparent in my husband’s life. His power has been evident in mine, as I have walked this journey alongside him.  

What we have learned of His faithfulness, we would not have known without this suffering.

Do you love Him? Trust Him!  Regardless of what you are facing. He will not leave you nor forsake you. The depth of your experience and knowledge of Him will grow, far exceeding your greatest imagination or expectation!

Donna Gaines

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The Perfect Valentine…Who Is He?

Melody Merritt

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Valentine’s Day was just a few weeks ago.  Did you receive the perfect card or the perfect gift? Even if you thought you did, by now the candy is gone, the flowers are dying, and that guy has probably done something not so perfect.  We always have wishes for a dream valentine and for it to last longer than just February 14th!

When I was married we usually went out to dinner and got each other a card.  Valentine’s Day was not a big celebration for us, but it was special.  As children came along it was neat to see Valentine’s Day through their eyes.  The smiles and laughter over the cards they gave and received.  A box of chocolates made their day!

After I went through a divorce, Valentine’s Day was a day I just wanted to sleep through.  I would look around and see all the happy couples, giving and receiving valentines.  I felt left out.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t loved.  I received valentines from my children, family, and friends.  There just seemed to be an emptiness and loneliness that didn’t get satisfied.  I wanted to hide out from all of the romance and love going around.

I thought about this from year to year. I’ve watched other women, married and single, none of them seemed satisfied for very long.  I wonder why we are never content.  

For the married ones they had someone to spend Valentine’s Day with and make it special.  I understood why the single women felt lonely. I have felt this way too.  Our children give Valentines to us and make us feel special, but there is still that lonely feeling, of missing out, wanting more.  We all want the romance, the dinner, the gift, the card, the special guy to spend Valentine’s Day with.

As a married woman, your husband cannot satisfy the deepest longing of your heart.  He might get Valentine’s Day right one time and then totally miss it the next year.  Emotions are fickle, changing with the tide.  

We cannot depend on our husbands to satisfy the longing for the Perfect Valentine.

Single women, don’t just look for a man to satisfy that longing.  Sometimes in our loneliness we tend to start looking in all the wrong places for a Valentine. There is not a man alive who can fill that role successfully.

But I have the answer.  I know why we are not content or satisfied.  We are looking for it in the wrong person.                                                                                                                                                                     

Continue reading →

16 Ways to Prioritize Your Marriage

by Melisa Gaines

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When my oldest two children started kindergarten and second grade, they learned the word “divorce.”  I knew they were going to learn words like this, but I was still sad I had to explain the meaning.  Like most other families, we have divorced couples in our extended families, but until this point we were able to keep this word out of their vocabularies on purpose.

We wanted them to have a proper, biblical view of marriage as long as possible.  We taught them marriage was designed by our Creator, and was meant to be shared between one man and one woman for a lifetime.  It represents the relationship between Christ and the church, as the husband is the loving head of his home and the wife respectfully submits to his leadership.  The Bible teaches this view, so we teach it to our children (Ephesians 5:22-33).

I’m concerned some couples begin their relationship with unrealistic expectations.

Marriage is not always bliss. You won’t always agree, get along, or feel loved by your spouse.  My husband and I have the rare privilege of coming from homes where both sets of our parents have been married more than 35 years.  A few years back I noticed from time to time they still argue.  At first I was upset, thinking to myself, “Really, after 35 years of marriage we won’t have matured past this petty arguing?”  But then I was encouraged by their examples. It taught me that, yes, 35 years in to this marriage thing, we are still going to be sinners.  We are being sanctified, but not yet glorified (Romans 8:30).  And we keep pressing on.

After almost 12 years of marriage, my relationship with my husband is sweeter than it was in the past.  Having to work for something usually makes you appreciate it more.  Since my children know about divorce now, sometimes when my husband and I aren’t getting along, one of them asks if we are going to get a divorce.  We explain we need to apologize, forgive, and work it out, but we won’t stop loving one another or give up on our marriage.  We tell them that one day when they are married they will argue with their spouses also, and they need to reconcile their differences, just like they do now with their siblings.

It’s important for us to prioritize our marriages to guard against divorce, but also for the sake of our children’s emotional stability.

“A healthy husband-wife relationship is essential to the emotional health of children in the home.  When there is harmony in the marriage, there is infused stability within the family.  A strong marriage provides a haven of security for children as they grow in the nurturing process.  Healthy, loving marriages create a sense of certainty for children.  When a child observes the special friendship and emotional togetherness of his parents, he is more secure simply because it isn’t necessary to question the legitimacy of his parent’s commitment to one another.” -Gary Ezzo

Most parents want emotionally stable children, but may be unaware of the damage they are causing by not loving their spouse.  I want my children to be sure of the commitment my husband and I have to one another.  I want them to see us serving one another, forgiving one another and putting each other’s needs before our own.

Romans 12 tells us, “Let love be genuine.  Love one another.  Outdo one another in showing honor.  Live in harmony with one another.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  When we prioritize our marriages it has a positive impact on our whole household. Continue reading →

Be Who You Want Them to Become

by Rey Cooke

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Recently I was invited to share a few “words of wisdom” with newly expectant parents at a baby shower.  I was honored to be a part of this special occasion, but I really had to ponder what to share that would encourage the young couple and not scare them half to death.

Those of us who have parented already, know the ups and downs of raising children. Truthfully, they are the greatest, most entrusted gifts given to us by God. They are also the most overwhelming responsibility!

Your greatest blessings and inheritance from the Lord (Psalm 127:3) is your greatest work and responsibility.

I don’t want to sound like I have all the answers. By the time your children are actually teenagers and dating, what worked for me might be completely obsolete to you. What I do know is that God’s Word stands the test of time. He is the same God yesterday, today and forever!  There were days as a young parent that I could barely keep my head above water, but God not only sustained me, He gave me what I needed for the day.  

My days of parenting young children are behind me, and I write from a position of understanding what families face today. God knew from eternity past what 2017 would look like.  He knew the impact technology alone would have on our culture. As a grandparent and mentor to women, let me encourage you with the same words I shared at the baby shower.

You cannot IMPART what you do not POSSESS.  We must Be what we want our children to Become.  It’s that simple!

They will pick up far more from watching how you handle your problems than from you telling them how to handle their problems.  They will learn how to save or spend money exactly how you handle your money.  If you watch inappropriate media, they will watch inappropriate media.

If you are grumpy, irritable and complain, your children will be grumpy, irritable and complain. If you are impatient with them, they will be impatient with others.  

We cannot impart a godly example if we do not live one.

Continue reading →