Category Archives: Encouragement

a grateful christmas

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It’s Christmas season — that beautiful, joyful time of year full of anticipation and wonder. I love the natural refreshment that this season holds — restful evenings with books or a classic Christmas movie, Christmas tunes all day long, afternoons in the kitchen creating Christmas foodie delight. It’s such a reflective time of year, if we choose to make it so, and I’ve been thinking much about that as the weeks have led up to it. I am seeking to emphasis gratitude in my heart this Christmas season, and in our home. To recognize the many and tremendous ways we’ve seen the Lord work in our hearts and lives and to treasure the gifts that He gives, that come in such various forms, whether hard, beautiful, edible, decorative, exciting, sanctifying, or snow-covered and pine-scented.

This last week, when we were in TX for Thanksgiving, we had quite the opportunity to practice gratitude. Thanksgiving morning dawned with my little one, my younger sister, and myself all hit with a stomach bug. There’s a great battle to fight for gratitude when your losing half your body weight into a trash can instead of getting to celebrate Thanksgiving with your family, particularly when you are all together only a few times a year. There were many tears shed that day and honest prayers struggling with “why?”, but God is good all the time, friends, and we all had to choose to find and focus on the many ways we had to be grateful! We made many precious memories together that week and we were able to have a last whole family evening together the next night and in our wearied, ab-aching, recovering sickness state, we chose to laugh about it, be grateful for the time we had, and be hopeful for more time together very soon.

My mom is probably the greatest example I know of someone who chooses gratitude in whatever situation she is facing. Even with tears streaming down her cheeks on Thanksgiving Day she continually listed off the reasons she was grateful in the midst of disappointing circumstances. J and I were talking last night about her example and how it pushed us both that day to find joy. We talked about how mom’s joy in the Lord and the way that she daily seeks to be content and grateful for whatever He has allowed in her life endears her to people and makes her a beautiful testimony of what delight can be found in every day when we choose gratitude over bitterness. That example is a gift and one that I pray I emulate to my family and friends.

Gratitude has become my word this year and I am…well, grateful….for the countless ways the Lord has taught me about it these past weeks and months. In light of all of this, I thought I’d end the year with a little gratitude project. I am always, always encouraged and inspired when I see others share their gratitude and the ways the Lord is working in their hearts to grow a more profound sense of gratitude. So, I thought it would be neat for us to continue to share these things with one another — all the bits and pieces of what we are grateful for this Christmas season. Whether you share daily or however often, I’d love to see us point one another to the Giver of all grace and good gifts and cherish this season of refreshment even more. Just hashtag your photos with:

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I’m grateful for each one of you, my friends, and hope that you are having a beautiful start to your Christmas season! I can’t wait to see what each one of you share!

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“sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”

“What the world needs from the church is our indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow.”            — John Piper

In the midst of such horrific tragedy going on in our world this sermon was a rich reminder of what my response is to be — “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve kept up with headlines more than I usually do. I’ve grown to realize I can’t bury my head in the sand and ignore the pain, heartache, and sadness in the world around me. I need to be aware and, by God’s grace, I’ve grown to want to be aware. I want to know how to pray. I want to be able to engage people in conversation and share the hope of Jesus in the midst of the most horrible circumstances.

The struggle for me has always been that I hold onto it all. I feel it very deeply and I begin to struggle feeling guilty when I’m happy and enjoying my days. That’s not right, though. For the exact hope I want to offer others is mine everyday. Even in the midst of the most horrible circumstances I can rejoice! This sermon was a timely reminder and instrumental in helping me think rightly about it all.

“sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

Only in Jesus can we live in reflection of that paradoxical statement. And be grateful. Be so very grateful.

a learning heart

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As momma to my precious girl my greatest prayer and hope for her life is that she come to know Jesus as her Savior. To know the surpassing greatness of His grace and His love for her; that, as much as her daddy and her mommy love her, it doesn’t even compare to the depth of God’s love for her. I pray that she seek Him diligently and be faithful to His truth. That she know that her value lies in Him and in the beautiful, gifted creation He has shaped her to be. That she step out in confidence and bravery, knowing He will lead and guide her in wisdom. That she trust His work in her life, be sensitive to His teaching, and rely on His strength. That she be joyful in the satisfaction and fulfillment that He brings and be hopeful in all His great plans for her life.

As we seek to be faithful to teach her about Christ, we fervently hope and pray that her little mind is soaking up truth and that, as she grows, her understanding will deepen and heart will yearn for more. And the Lord is so kind. He gives us these precious moments where we see that her mind is indeed hearing and beginning to more fully understand what we are teaching her.

The other day she climbed up next to Jas and I on our bed, with Jas’ small Bible in her hand, and said, “Dod (God) teach my mommy daddy. Teach me!” Instant tear-filled eyes. Hearing her say that was one of the sweetest, most joyful moments we’ve experience as her parents. She’s hearing it! She’s understanding it! Thank you, Lord, for this gift of grace!

And just today, I asked her, “Little, what does God’s Word tell us?” And she said, “Dod teach me, obey mommy daddy. Obey Me (Me as in God speaking that).” There is nothing more dear than hearing your little one start to share their understanding of truth and what God teaches us and who He is. In these moments my heart fills with such gratitude and aches even more for her precious heart to know Him. That her sin will be washed white as snow and she will walk with Him all the days of her life.

My eyes fill with grateful tears and my heart leaps with praise in these dear, hopeful moments. The Lord is working through it all. He is good.

hannah

Hannah was Samuel’s mother and what is shared about her life in Scripture is a rather small amount. However, that small amount is overflowing with the beauty, grace, faithfulness, and trust in God that this woman exemplified. And reading a book chapter dedicated to fleshing out a portion of those characteristics of Hannah was a humbling and richly bountiful process. So much goodness was wrapped up in the pages describing this woman’s life. What a gracious, godly testimony the Lord gives us as women in the life of Hannah.

I truly could do an entire blog series about this one chapter I read about Hannah. My mind has been so full with all I learned and with all the Lord revealed to me through the testimony of her. But today, I will share one portion. The portion which, at this time in my life and the life of our little family, was probably the most impactful.

“She had brought her case before the Lord. Now she was content to leave the matter in His hands. That demonstrates how genuine and patient her faith truly was. Scripture says, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you” (Ps. 55:22). Some people will pray, “O God, here’s my problem,” and then leave His presence in complete doubt and frustration, still shouldering the same burden they originally brought before the Lord, not really trusting Him to sustain them. Hannah truly laid her troubles in the lap of the Lord, totally confident that He would answer her in accord for what was best for her. There’s a real humility in that kind of faith……” — pages 100-101, Twelve Extraordinary Women, by John MacArthur

To be fully open with you all, my prayer life has always been a floundering one. And I think John MacArthur must have had me in mind when he wrote the part, “some people will pray, “O God, here’s my problem,” and then leave His presence in complete doubt and frustration, still shouldering the same burden they originally brought before the Lord, not really trusting Him to sustain them.” How often, sadly, this is true of me! I cast my care to the Lord and instead of leaving it there, I pick it back up and take it with me, worrying and fretting about it, desperately trying to find a way to fix it myself.

Now, there is the portion where we have a responsibility to act in the wisdom that God gives us and take practical steps, etc., and Hannah was doing that. She was trying to have a baby. But in her trying, through her weeping and heartache over her barrenness, she left her care with the Lord, totally confident that He would answer herin accord for what was best for her. My problem isn’t the taking practical steps part. Most often, I’ve jumped 2 or 3 steps ahead, ignoring the commands of Scripture to trust in the Lord to sustain me and work out His plan in His time and in the way that is best for me. And when I do that, I rob myself of the peace that surpasses all understanding, knowing that the Lord is always, always going to work out what needs to be worked out and He is going to do so in the way that I most need, as His best for me.

My heart in all of this is very proud. A heart convinced that I really do know what’s best for me. Better than my sovereign, all wise, all knowing God. Well, of course. Oh, how I cringe at my pride as I write this.

I desire for my heart to be so much more like Hannah’s. To have a faith like her’s is described. A faith characterized by “real humility.” A faith that possesses the characteristics that the Lord has called me to seek.

I want to leave my cares at His feet. Really, truly leave them there.

Whenever I write posts such as these I am always filled with gratitude in that, as I see my sin and my need for grace so clearly in these words, I am reminded that I don’t have to remain here. I am being sanctified. The Lord is working on my heart and this is part of the process. He is tearing apart the sinful, self-absorbed me, bit by bit, everyday. And that gives me a lot of hope.

 

easter

Thankful for a beautiful Easter Sunday yesterday. The weather was truly perfect and the evening filled with the company of dear friends. Plates piled high with delicious food, plenty of Easter sweets, good conversation and laughter, and an egg hunt for AK and her buddy, Finn. J and I snapped some photos and I have to say, taking pictures alongside my husband is a favorite thing of mine. I so enjoy being able to share photography with him.

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The sweetest part of this day is that we celebrate our risen Savior and the glorious hope that we live with daily because of His victory over sin and death. Praise the Lord! At our church’s Good Friday service we sang the song Man of Sorrows, and the last verse, bridge, and chorus have been echoing in my mind the past few days.

now my debt is paid. it is paid in full.

by the precious blood. that my Jesus spilled.

now the curse of sinhas no hold on me.

whom the Son sets freeoh is free indeed.

 

oh that rugged cross. my salvation.

where Your love poured out over me.

now my soul cries out. hallelujah.

praise and honour unto Thee.

 

see the stone is rolled away.

behold the empty tomb.

hallelujah God be praised.

He’s risen from the grave. 

 

oh that rugged cross. my salvation.

where Your love poured out over me. 

now my soul cries out. hallelujah.

praise and honour unto Thee. 

 

These words speak the grace and joy that it means to belong to God. The grave couldn’t hold Him. The stone was rolled away. He arose. He lives.

Because of that I live with hope for today and for tomorrow and for eternity. I’m praying that I don’t move on so quickly from the celebration of Easter this year.

a journal entry

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yesterday morning, I woke up overwhelmed, filled with that urge to pull the blankets up a little higher and stay put. I am thankful for my husband who didn’t let me stay put and for the words of truth that I read as I sipped my coffee. These words were in response to that……..

Today, on this full day of errands, grocery lists, cleaning out the car, preparing for a photo shoot, making blog plans, and caring for my family, He sustains me. He holds it all together. All of it. Down to the little bits and pieces that seem so mundane. He sustains me in every task and calls me to give Him glory as I go about each one (1 Cor 10:31). He is over it all.

Am I faithful to give Him the glory? Am I showing trust in His strength by my responses to my circumstances? As I cry tears of weariness, from an overwhelmed mind, do I remember that His grace is sufficient in my weakness and that I ought to “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,” as Paul did (2 Corinthians 12:9)? This must be what I’m remembering.

And God is so good. As I went about my day yesterday, in all the tasks, the errands, the preparations; as I sought to lay each one at His feet and trust Him with the outcome, He gave my heart with peace. Peace in the moment and peace about the outcome of each moment. Too often I forget that each little thing that makes up the whole of my day is held in His hand and He has prepared me for each one. I need to take it step by step, task by task, errand running by errand running, and focus on having a heart of joy and gratitude in each one. In each one of those things I have an opportunity to glorify God’s name or respond in selfishness, anxiety, or fear. Which one am I going to do?

So today, in the midst of laundry, picture editing, blog writing, cookie making, potty training, and washing dishes, which one am I going to choose? And honestly, when I look at that list of things I have before me, how can I not have a grateful heart for the fact that the Lord has entrusted those things to me? How kind He has been to give me these sweet and precious tasks. And that’s what I should hold onto.

 

Some Picks of the Week

Something to Read: The girltalk blog. I’ve mentioned it before here. It’s filled with constant encouragement, practical wisdom, and life humor, all founded on gospel truth. They wrote a 2-Part blog on How to Handle Public Tantrums (Part 1. Part 2.) and it was excellent! My fellow mothers and I were all passing it around to one another this past week. It was especially timely as several of my friends and I have recently been talking to, praying for, and asking each other’s thoughts on how to best handle such situations in a biblical way. The blog refreshed my mommy heart and has given my husband and I encouragement and helpful ideas as we seek to love and parent our girl well in this way. I’m thankful for how the Lord is using it and for what He is teaching us as we think and pray through these things. I will share in a later blog some of what we have decided to implement and how we are growing and learning in our seeking to practice it.

Something to Meditate On: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This verse is one I am committing to memory. It is a verse that we pray we live out faithfully daily in our home and our parenting.

Something to Make: We made these Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce the other evening and they were amazing. J and I both couldn’t wait to eat the leftovers the next day! I halved the recipe and filled an 8-by-8 glass baking dish, and we basically got 3 meals out of it. It would be a great meal to serve to guests with a light salad and french bread. The stuffing for the shells is pure creamy goodness and the pancetta adds such a great flavor to the sauce. It’s a new family favorite.

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photo courtesy of Food Network

Something to Be Thankful For: Dear friends. How have I been blessed by my friends? Oh, let me count the ways! The Lord has been overwhelmingly kind in the many beautiful women He has gifted to me as friends. There are so many of them, both here in KY and throughout the rest of the country. I could fill volumes on how these women have encouraged me, challenged me, spurred me on, spoken truth to me, loved me, cried with me, made me laugh uncontrollably, learned with me, taught me, and been ever faithful testimonies of Jesus to me. These are women who love Jesus most and seek Him first and that is seen in their marriages, their mothering, their ministering, their homes, their careers, and their every day living. I am humbled and unspeakably thankful to have each one of them as my friends and sisters. How good our God is to grant us such people to walk through this life with. What a blessing to grow, learn, and be sanctified together. My friends, every.single.one. of you is a gift to me, in so many ways. I praise the Lord for each one of you and count it a true joy and privilege to walk through life with you. Thank you for walking with me and for spurring me on to love and reflect Jesus more. You are each precious to me and I love you dearly.