Spiritual Growth

Unity Rather Than Uniformity

Unity Rather Than Uniformity

There was a time when I struggled when other moms in our church made choices for their children different than my own. I worried that I was not spiritual enough, or that others were judging me, or that perhaps I was actually missing how God was leading me.

My struggle wasn’t with God’s will but rather with my own insecurity.

I’ve found that my discomfort with differences is not unusual among women in the church, particularly among young mothers who are navigating many important decisions for the first time. Our greatest struggles and misunderstandings leading to disunity are typically about secondary, non-gospel issues, such as education, working versus non-working, financial choices, and parenting practices.

Instead of secondary, we often make these choices primary identity markers for who we are and how we’re doing as mothers and disciples of Jesus. As a result, we self-divide within the church, huddling into groups that share our convictions and can best relate to us.

In order to experience unity as mothers, we must intentionally reject uniformity and instead celebrate the unique gifts, skills, life circumstances, and choices others may use to adorn the gospel.

Paul tells us that a grace-filled response will allow for differences on secondary issues. We don’t all have to do everything the same way, and in fact we can’t all do everything the same way.

Each of us lives by faith as unto the Lord, and we will account only to God for how we lived in response to him. Because of this, we aren’t to judge others who think or act differently on these issues. Just as we trust God to lead and care for us, we must trust God to lead and care for others.

When we see more quickly what unifies us rather than what makes us different, we focus on what is truly at the heart of the kingdom of God, and we’re able to speak grace into the lives of others who are weary, dry, and desperate for it.

And isn’t that every mother within the church?

Sharing Jesus at Home and with the Nations

 Sharing Jesus at Home and with the Nations

I’ve cared about evangelism for as long as I can remember.

Three years or so ago, the old me wouldn’t have believed my struggle with evangelism and the number of excuses I’ve made since becoming a mom. It’s true we’re busy, and our life goes from taking care of ourselves to not looking in the mirror for an entire 6 hours while also forgetting to eat lunch again—something I never would’ve done in my pre-mommy life.

We may think of evangelism like the fairy tales we tell our little princes and princesses. We imagine a special place where we will meet the right person who needs to hear the gospel. They will be saved. We will become best friends who study the Bible together over coffee and blueberry scones—everything will be happily ever after!

If evangelism likens to a fairy tale, we can play the role of the knight who has shiny armor of his own and doesn’t need God almighty and his spiritual armor to help him.

But to live a life that seeks to evangelize, we must recognize we are weak, inadequate, and unable to orchestrate the ideal scenario. We can’t change anyone’s heart either. The strength of Christ helps us obey when life seems chaotic, and God’s word holds the power to save souls.

So, let’s forget about the perfect evangelism opportunity and invite our children into the life of one who is ready at all times to give reason for the hope you have in Christ. 1 Cor. 5:20 says, ‘Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

Obeying the Great Commission will look different now that you are a mom. Let God make his appeal through you inside and outside of your home, through prayer and direct interaction, to your children and other future children of God who wait for someone to tell them, for they cannot believe unless they hear the good news.

Mommas, We Speak From the Overflow of Our Hearts

Mommas, We Speak From the Overflow of Our Hearts

I yelled at my daughter the other day. Not a gentle ‘Don’t do that, honey,’ kind of correction, but an angry, ‘What on earth were you thinking?’ reaction.

She, in turn, yelled at her two year old brother for making her do it, and pretty quickly there was a lot of frustration going around for a little bit of spilled sparkling water. A simple misstep halted my child’s creative idea on a nice day, and there we were, yelling at each other as if the offense merited some sort of punishment.

After we cleaned up, I thought about how quickly that moment went from fun to frenzied. Rather than parenting my children with the patience and instruction they need, I responded to a common sibling squabble like I was one of the siblings. 

If a mama speaks out of the overflow of her heart, my overflow had been speaking loud and clear, pointing to the fact that I wasn’t guarding the sources filling my heart-well.

The problem is really simple: it’s me. My heart is. My misplaced worship is. The idolatry of my time and performance is. And the way I feed these things by comparing myself to other mothers, that’s the problem.

And the way I’ve sought to fill my life with the things God tells us will not satisfy—these are the barrier between me and the mom that I want to be. As I’ve escaped to worldly influences, I’ve robbed my soul of the fellowship with my Savior that it needs, and I’ve seen firsthand the difference between the overflow of a heart filled with treasure and a heart filled with idols.

Motherhood is one way God makes his goodness tangible, and I am learning each day that to be the mom I want to be, to experience that goodness, I have to begin with a posture of humility; which is sometimes as simple as the choice between one of the many temporary comforts fighting for my affection, and repentance. Simple, pure, childlike repentance of my sin. Because we’re all in need of saving from the thing that keeps us from God and from one another.

But the best news for all of us is that grace is already there.

All in All: How Jesus Transforms Our Relationships

All in All: How Jesus Transforms Our Relationships

“It was one of my first ventures out into society as a new mama. We were visiting the home of some new friends & he started crying a little bit. Then, it got louder & I excused myself to the other room as I attempted to quiet him.
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I tried bouncing him. I tried singing lullabies. I tried feeding him & changing his diaper. Still he continued to wail.
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All my visions of motherhood were crashing down hard as I tasted my own failure to soothe this real-life baby.
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Fast forward a few weeks. I’m listening to scripture on audio as I fold laundry. One short phrase rings out strong. It’s the second part of Colossians 3:11, which says, ‘But Christ is all & in all.’
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That is, he is everything, everywhere, for every moment. He provides the meaning & purpose & beauty—not just for some days or some people—but for all & for everything, even this moment as I fold my laundry, even that moment when my child is crying and crying, even when I am crying myself. 
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Jesus is the beginning, middle & end of my story & your story & everyone else’s story.
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We live in a world where relationships tend to be defined by divisions & distinctions. This is the reality of my heart—that I look on others & instinctively measure myself as either inadequate or superior in comparison.
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But there is something bigger than all our differences, bigger than all the measurements & status. Christ is bigger. He is all.
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When we look at ourselves & at others, we look for Christ, in & through all our differences. We are no longer worrying what others think of us or racing to prove ourselves, to peg ourselves as inferior or superior to another mama. Rather, we clothe ourselves in humility. 
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We’re on a treasure hunt of sorts, looking for Christ, searching to delight in His glory in those around us & his grace in our own weaknesses. We’re living out this identity as a people holy & dearly loved, freed to bear with each other & forgive each other & live in peace as one body.
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Because Christ is all & is in all, we can live in sweet peace & experience genuine love.”
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Planting Seeds of Gospel Hope

Planting Seeds of Gospel Hope

I spent much of my high school and college years intentionally building relationships with unbelievers, sharing the gospel with strangers, and passing out tracts. I even wanted to bring this message to other nations as a missionary. 

But God was leading me to a different season than I imagined for myself. A season that didn’t look like typical missions work or much of an evangelistic opportunity. I was to become a wife and mother. 

My interactions with the outside world were mainly the cashier at the grocery store, the children’s librarian, and people at the park. My limited interactions were fraught with countless interruptions, distractions, and little moments of crises.

I didn’t understand how this desire to evangelize matched up with motherhood, especially the part of motherhood that involved changing diapers and cleaning spit up. And I would feel guilty for not actively sharing the gospel with someone else.

But I was thinking about motherhood and evangelism wrong.

When Jesus walked this earth, he made disciples. He called them to come and follow him. He didn’t share a brief three point sermon, knock on a door, pass out a tract, and then walk away. He walked the same roads as his followers and traveled in their shoes. Jesus went the distance.

Because making a disciple takes time. 

I can change the baby’s diaper as an expression of a type of sacrificial love that reflects Jesus. I can teach both my boys that the gospel is their only hope for change and right living, while I reach out to the mom next door. I can love my children and the mom from story time. They are both my neighbor. 

When I offer my children grace, love, and acceptance in their failures I’m pointing them to a greater version of these things in Christ. Just the same, when I extend an invitation for a playdate with an unbeliever I’m reflecting a greater invitation from the Savior. 

I’m being faithful where God has me.


I can trust God with the new seeds I plant now.

Transitions

Transitions

My four daughters have been raised on three continents. They cut their teeth in Asia, experienced some middle years in Europe, and now live in the United States. These sweet babes have traversed everything from squatty potties and flying cockroaches to endless gray days and desperately wanting to buy a vowel in a language that has almost none.

Now that we’ve settled down in Colorado, I’ve noticed there are few natives here. Americans are increasingly transient. We’re less and less obligated to stay close to our roots. We move for school, work, climate, friends, a new lifestyle, even on a whim.

It was one thing to relocate when we were footloose and fancy-free college kids or young adults. But now that we’ve got a toddler or elementary-aged boy or tween girl or a teen in tow, we need a game plan.

Moves across the state, the country, or even the world can be both traumatic and exciting at the same time. As our families experience upheaval, we need to be firmly grounded in the unchanging nature of our God and his good news.

Here are some gospel foundations for making a move as a family:

1. Jesus will hold everything together.

2. You cannot escape God’s presence.

3. God ordains when and where we live.

4. As Christians we have family wherever we go.

Though difficult, transitions can be an immense blessing. Trust the Lord to work in yours. As far as you are able, be faithful in preparing your own heart and the hearts of your children. Beyond that, know that our God is good and gracious and he will not only meet you there, but he will meet your kids there in ways you never knew possible.

Birthing and Longing

Birthing and Longing

‘You know, babe, I wish I could have known you would be all into this … birth stuff before we got married.’

We became pregnant just a few short months after our honeymoon, which unlocked inside of me what has become an enduring life passion: childbirth.

My favorite portion of Romans 8 is where Paul uses childbirth as a metaphor to teach us about our ultimate future glory.

‘For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God … For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.’

Whether it’s something as significant as a waiting to see a child to come to saving faith in Christ or something more temporal but strongly felt as waiting for a child to fall asleep (PLEASE!), we all know what it means to wait for something with eager longing.

But the waiting of childbirth—and, so, creation—is marked by groaning. This is not a comfortable waiting. It is waiting punctuated by great effort and, oftentimes, pain. The tension of ‘already but not yet’ is palabable in the delivery room. Every birth attendant knows that the baby is coming; but often as the hours or days of labor creep by, it is easy to fall into wondering if the baby will actually ever come

Christians are a people keenly aware that this world is not as it should be. When we look around and see hatred and bigotry, inequality and racism, poverty and wars, it would be right for us to literally moan, ‘When will Jesus redeem this once and for all!?’

Praise God that we have assurance that day IS coming—the baby WILL be born!—though it will be at an ‘hour no one knows.’

Just like a woman in labor, may we endeavor to put those groanings to work. May our groans sound like women who shout gospel truth through the labor halls of life. And may we know when we get to see our Savior face to face, it will be cause for infinite joy—a moment that will make the breathtaking moment of looking into the faces of our own children once they’ve been born pale in comparison.

Joyfully Spreading the Word

Joyfully Spreading the Word

As women in the church learn and grow together, following Paul’s instruction to Titus that older women should teach the younger ones ‘what is good,’ a call to evangelism must be a crucial part of the good things passed on.

God’s people have the astounding privilege of passing on the good news of what God has done for us through the death of Christ on our behalf and his resurrection from the grave. Although it is clearly the concern of the whole church, the subject of sharing the gospel is one that women will do well to consider deeply together. 

Let me suggest three specific reasons why.

First, believing women need to hear voices calling us to a gospel-centered outward focus—rather than a self-centered, inward one.

When we do turn outward toward social issues and actions—and, happily, we increasingly do—the temptation is to turn with passion to the physical and emotional needs that move our hearts. Why are we not equally moved, or even more moved, to share the good news of Jesus and how he can meet the greatest and eternal needs of every needy human being?

Second, there are great role models who can teach us biblically and well. 

Women with hearts to share the gospel juggle a variety of contexts, mixing home and work and friendship and hospitality and mercy ministry in that sometimes-chaotic combination that makes up many women’s lives. No matter what our involvements, we can spur one another on in learning and sharing the Word that is at the heart of our ongoing witness.

Finally, women should be considering deeply together the subject of personal evangelism because we sense the urgency of teaching each other this part of ‘what is good.’

We all need voices calling us to a gospel-centered outward focus. We need strong Word-filled role models. And we need a sense of the urgency of this message, this message that calls people from death to life through the power of the gospel.

What Does it Mean to Remember My Identity in Christ?

What Does it Mean to Remember My Identity in Christ?

"Although we’ve had the same food expectations for all of our kids, their tastes and preferences vary wildly. Not long ago, we jokingly nicknamed our twins, “farm-to-table” and our oldest son, “Mickey” (in reference to his love of the McDonald’s cheeseburger). It was all fun and games … for awhile.
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After a couple of weeks it started affecting their behavior and excitement about different foods. Like when our firstborn pushed away his broccoli—not because he simply didn’t like it—but because he was “Mickey.”
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This goes to show that what we call ourselves has power.
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We don’t think of ourselves neutrally, but instead, we see ourselves through the lens of, 'Mary, the angry mom,' or 'Julie, the messy person,' or 'Kayla, the A-type overachiever.' The more we repeat these and believe these labels, the more we live up to them.
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The power of personal identity is one of main reasons why God spends so much of the Bible telling us who we were created to be, who we are apart from him, and who we are in Christ. These foundational truths are the dot from which all the lines of our life flow.
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In Genesis, he tells us that we are image bearers, created as males and females, equal in worth but still distinct. As image bearers, we deserve dignity, respect, love, and life. 
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But in Genesis, we also see that Adam and Eve sin. As sinners, we deserve guilt, condemnation, separation from God, and ultimately death. It feels normal for most of us (especially once we’ve heard and believed the gospel) to be horrified and ashamed about this sinful aspect of our identity. 
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If God left us like this—image bearers enslaved to sin—the narrative of our lives would be irredeemable.
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But he intervenes by sending his son, Jesus, to purchase us at an unimaginably high price so that we could part with our old identity and be raised with him, identified with Christ. Our new identity—in Christ—means that we are redeemed image bearers.
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From the basis of our new identity in Christ, we love well, we look out for the interests of others, we forgive, we submit, and we pursue peace.
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God tells us who we are in Christ, not because we have arrived today, but because we will arrive when we meet Christ. The more we believe that—remembering our identity in Christ today—the more we can cast off lies and walk in the way we’ll walk for eternity. 
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So, the next time you hear someone mention your identity in Christ, let it be a reminder that you are a new creation in Christ, which is definitely a label worth remembering."
 

To Mom Well is to Know Christ Well

To Mom Well is to Know Christ Well

We all know that motherhood is so much more than social media showcases. It’s more than the bursts of laughter captured in a well-lit scene, houses that are never messy, walls that are never sticky, and hot steaming coffee that magically appears in bed next to a sleeping babe.

Some of the most genuine frames of motherhood are those you cannot capture. I’m talking about the early morning wake-up to hold up your daughter’s hair as she battles a stomach bug. Or the Holy Spirit-given fruit of patience budding in you as you break up sibling rivalry for the fifth time this week.

Social media is not wrong in and of itself, but for many, it may be the water needed to grow seeds of comparison, discontent, and envy. Today alone you probably learned where Sarah just traveled, and what an awesome mom Jane is for feeding her child steel cut oats and kale daily. With every scroll and every click we are depositing some knowledge into our brains, and what fills our minds will direct our thought life and actions.

Sometimes we just need that simple reminder that true joy doesn’t exist apart from Jesus.

The bottom line is this: forego the fairytale picture of mom-ing so many project through the screen, because this will not sustain you in the trenches of motherhood. If we want to mom well, we need to know Christ well, because it is He who has the power to transform us, our homes, and one another.

Abide Together: What Exactly is a Bible Study?

Abide Together: What Exactly is a Bible Study?

We’ve never had more resources available to us than we do right now. There are books, online articles, printed magazines, podcasts, videos, and music coming at us from every direction. As a woman eager to learn more about God’s word, it can be exhilarating to have easy access to so many teachers and influencers.

 

These resources can be extremely helpful and can encourage a busy mom when her hands are full of little children and dirty dishes. It’s a joy to turn on a favorite podcast, or sneak in a quick devotional reading in the school pick-up line. Our modern age of information provides lots of great opportunities for spiritual growth and reflection. But however nice and helpful the resources may be, they aren’t the same as studying the Bible itself. We still need first-hand knowledge of the eternal word of God so we can know him more fully and be sustained as we serve him in this world. Without even realizing it, we often just “take people’s word for it” when it comes to understanding God's nature, character and plans. But if we don't know what he actually says, how can we be sure that the podcasts, online sermons, devotional books, and Christian books we consume are actually giving us truth?

These questions and concerns are why we need to prioritize Bible study and learn God’s word for ourselves...

Abide Together: Why Should We Study The Bible?

Abide Together: Why Should We Study The Bible?

Are you stressed, parched, overwhelmed, and in need of direction in your life? Do you long to know God more, and understand his love for you? Would you like to see more growth as you battle sins and minister to those in your sphere of influence? Are you confused about God’s plan for your life and how to have purpose in all you do? Could you use help in learning to train your children in the ways of the Lord? Do you wish you could hear God’s voice speaking to you? Well, the good news is, God has spoken, and you have access to his words.

Even when we recognize that the Bible is the ultimate resource for all of eternity, we can still feel overwhelmed opening a book originally written in foreign languages, more than three thousand years ago. Something so full of metaphors and detailed imagery (that seemingly doesn’t relate to a mom in the twenty-first century) can be difficult to apply, and honestly, sometimes we don’t “feel” any different right away. Questions about scripture passages take time and study to answer, and not every passage has simple, direct application to our daily lives.

When Motherhood Doesn't Fit Quite Right

When Motherhood Doesn't Fit Quite Right

Those early years of mothering, they just didn’t fit me quite right. 

Ya know, like how you feel when you try on one of those rompers and you just keep tugging and twisting it, hoping to get it to lay just right. 

Something about a newborn felt odd, and unknown to me. My body seemed foreign, my routines were in the diaper genie.  I wasn’t sure what had changed in me, or what was to remain the same.

That little babe on my chest, at times, didn’t fit quite right. 

This is how motherhood felt for a couple years. I would look at my reflection in the metaphorical mirror and tug and twist this awkward new title of mom. The struggle, was very real.

In an attempt to silence the fear of failing as a mom, I overcompensated with tight and rigid schedules and extreme expectations. That control birthed other bad habits and misconceptions—like that mothering was something at which to win. 

Every Hour We Need Thee

Every Hour We Need Thee

Today I'm reminded of how far I am from being a good mother, a good friend, a good wife / sister / daughter / church member / volunteer – a good anything! I feel split in two, like I live in the in-between. I want to do better, oh how I long to do better. But the needs keep coming at me and I fail over and over again. I just can't seem to get it together.

At times, it can feel pretty bleak. Why can I not live out what I know, I know? If I have Christ, why do I sometimes feel lost? If I know his promises are true, why do I act like they don't exist?