Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Very Next Thing

"To dwell in the place I have been given.  To do the things I have been given.  To love the people I have been given.  This is not mysterious or far reaching, yet this is the truth of a God-ordained life.

Slowly, I was beginning to understand that it wasn't my productivity that God desired; it was my heart.  It wasn't my ministry God loved; it was me.  God was glorified, is glorified, when we give Him our hearts, give Him ourselves, and faithfully do the thing right in front of us, no matter how small or trivial."

These words were written by Katie Davis Majors, a missionary in Uganda.  Her story is much different than mine, as is the place God has called her to.  But what we share is our struggle in motherhood.  The struggle of wanting to be used by God, yet feeling like we are caught up in the ordinary and mundane routine of life.  Whether we are making meals, changing diapers, breaking up arguments, cleaning up messes, or carpooling all around town, being a mother takes a lot of effort and is often unappreciated by our children.  But did you know that in all that activity we have the opportunity to grow in faithfulness?

Katie describes faithfulness as what we repeatedly do, whether or not we see the results.  "Faithfulness is when we pour into hard people over and over, when we continue to serve in difficult situations, when we intentionally choose to lean into Him in our troubles as well as our joys.  Faithfulness is a habit formed in our hearts when no one is looking, when the day is done and the stars creep out and our call isn't easy but we don't turn away."

I sometimes get overwhelmed by all the things I feel that I should do.  I want to eat healthier, exercise, memorize Scripture, do regular devotions, invest time in other people, spend quality time with my kids, strengthen my marriage, keep a clean house, serve others, and the list goes on....  And quite honestly, when I get overwhelmed, it seems nothing gets done.  These are all good things, but what is it that God really expects of me?

What I keep coming back to is that God just wants me to do the very next thing, the thing right in front of me.  He wants me to be in relationship with Him and then simply to walk in obedience.  Being a task-oriented planner, this is sometimes challenging.  I get so focused on what's to come, that I have a difficult time just being present.  My goal now is simply to be faithful to what is right in front of me...or to whatever He puts on my heart.  When I think a compliment, I try to speak it.  When I feel a burden for someone, I stop to pray or reach out.  When my kids want my attention, I try to stop what I'm doing and give it. These things may seem small, but I believe God is glorified through them much more than me going through my schedule on auto-pilot.

What is the very next thing that God is asking YOU to do?  Be present.  Be faithful.

We're in this together.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

One Secret To Affair-Proofing Your Marriage

Okay, so this may not really be a "secret", but it is something married women generally don't talk about.  I won't hold you in suspense, here it is....Have sex with your spouse!  Regularly.

It was actually Scripture that got my wheels turning on this subject this morning.  So let's start with that.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul is writing to the church on some issues concerning Christian marriage.  He writes " Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.  Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."- 1 Corinthians 7:5

Whether we do it intentionally or just because life gets too busy, not having regular sex with your spouse is an open door for Satan to walk through.  The best illustration I've heard on this came from Gary Thomas.  I'm going to paraphrase his story from memory because it's been so long that I don't remember which book it came from!  Gary is a runner, even dedicated enough to run on vacation.  One year he was away from home in a much more humid environment than he was used to and he failed to bring enough water on his run.  He became so parched that as he ran by houses and saw a hose out front, he considered going over to take a drink.  A while later, he passed a discarded Coke bottle on the road that still contained a small amount of liquid.  Even that began to be tempting.  Can you imagine how gross that would be?  But dehydration can cause your mind to consider things that normally would be unthinkable.  When we deprive our spouses from meeting their physical needs in a healthy way within our marriage, even what was unthinkable before may become a temptation. 

What do I mean by "regular"?  That could vary for each individual couple.  If you don't know what your spouse needs to be fulfilled, you should definitely have that conversation and find out.  For me, anything less than once a week would be a huge warning light.  I understand that sex is more than a physical act, it has a large emotional component (especially for women).  If that warning light goes off in your marriage, the time to act is NOW.  Find out what the problem is and take steps to fix it.  In every failing marriage that I've come across, the couple does not seek help until the "we haven't had sex for MONTHS" stage.  That is heartbreaking and so much more difficult to come back from.

Because this topic can be so uncomfortable to talk about in person, there are a few books I can recommend that would be a good starting point if you struggle in this area.  Every Woman's/Man's Marriage and Every Woman's/Man's Battle.


Shannon Ethridge writes in a very vulnerable and honest style.  She has several books on marriage/sex that may be helpful in restoring your perspective and giving you hope for the days ahead.

Craig Groeschel is known for saying "When your car runs out of gas, you don't go sell it and buy a new one.  You put gas in your car."

While my marriage isn't perfect, it has always been a priority for me.  I didn't have an example to look to growing up, so it's been "learn as you go".  I've been blessed to learn these lessons early.  I pray for those of you who took the time to read these thoughts of mine, that I will have given you something to think about and that your marriage would be strengthened because of it.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Gospel-Centered Mom by Brooke McGlothlin

I think it was the sub-title that captured my attention for this book: The Freeing Truth About What Your Kids Really Need.  The title of Mom comes along with so many overwhelming responsibilities that it's easy to feel like we're not enough.  And then we compare ourselves with other women and feel even less adequate.  One of the blessings of this book is that Brooke shatters the illusion that we are in this alone.  Mothers deal with the same emotional struggles, and each one of us can be encouraged by the truths found here.

"Why does it bother me so much to feel inept at mothering my boys?  Maybe because it's the thing that I most want to get right."

The Gospel-Centered Mom helps us to reset our perspectives.  Of course we're not enough, but God is.  It's easy to get our parenting priorities out of whack.  Maybe we spend most of our energy on providing our kids with a good education, a healthy diet, opportunities to excel in sports or music, or happiness.  But what is it that's most important to God?  How do we partner with Him to raise our kids?  And to what extent are we responsible for their choices and the people they grow up to be?  These are some of the issues explored in this book.

One area that I struggle in is how to spiritually inspire my boys.  I liked what the author had to say about this.  She writes, "Living the Christian life and influencing others for Christ is really as simple as studying the Word for yourself and then telling others what you've learned." Lead by example.  At times I don't feel like anything sinks in, but I trust that one day I'll see the fruits of my efforts.

A feature that I really appreciated in this book are the re-caps.  At the end of each chapter appear 2 summary statements called a Hard Truth and a Beautiful Truth which reinforce the theme of the chapter.  There is also a conclusion section at the end of the book which summarizes the main points of each of the 10 chapters.  If you are reading this as a group, discussion questions are provided as well.

Overall, I found this book to be easy to read, honest, and thought provoking.  I recommend it to Christian mothers who desire to raise godly children without being burdened by unnecessary guilt! 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Delusion by Laura Gallier

Don't let the cover art fool you...this is not a horror book (I'm not into that).  Instead, it is a book that deals with the spiritual dimension and the battle between good and evil.  A teenage boy has his eyes opened to be able to see what we are blind to.  Instead of demons and angels, they are referred to as Creepers and Watchmen.  He must learn to understand what he is seeing and figure out how to help those who are in danger. 

I really enjoyed Frank Peretti's books, Piercing the Darkness and This Present Darkness, which fictionalize the spiritual dimension.  I expected this book to be similar - only targeting a teenage audience.  So how did it measure up?

Pros: There is truth to be found here.  The spiritual battle is real.  Evil exists, and we are all susceptible to it's influence.  Yet there is also good, and prayer is powerful. 

Cons: The descriptions of the Creepers is sometimes too gruesome for my tastes.  I'm sure evil is ugly, but I'd rather not dwell on it too much!  Also, the main character is pretty dense.  It takes him a LONG time to figure things out, and some things he never does. 

That leads me to my biggest disappointment with this book.  Nowhere on the cover does it tell you that this is PART ONE of a story.   There is no closure or resolution, which is my favorite part!  I find it very frustrating not having been warned that this would happen, because I would not have picked up the book had I known.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin is becoming one of my favorite authors of fiction!  While this story is fictional, the idea came from the true story of two sisters, Agnes and Margaret Smith, who lived in the 1800's.  "These brilliant, self-educated women discovered a copy of the Gospels dating from AD 500 at the monastery on Mount Sinai...Their trust in God led them to accomplish extraordinary things and live a rich, adventurous life for God's glory."

This interesting story is told through the eyes of four different characters.  The two largest sections of the book are told through the sisters perspective, with two other sections focusing on minor characters.  By switching points of view and using flashbacks to develop characters, the story stays fresh and captivating throughout.  I also like learning a little bit of history by discovering what life may have been like in the 1800's.

The main characters are easily likable, displaying faith, hope, and a belief that God has a purpose for each one of us.  While this is a work of fiction, there are words of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book that can inspire and uplift. 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Whisper by Mark Batterson

What does it mean when someone says that God "spoke to them"?  Does God still speak today?  If  That's what this book explores.  How to Hear the Voice of God.

"Chronic noise may be the greatest impediment to our spiritual growth".  That got my attention.  Schedules are busy.  Our lives are filled with cell phones, televisions, and music.  These things aren't necessarily bad, but they can be a distraction.

In 1 Kings 19:12 God speaks in a whisper.  Why a whisper?  Here is the author's take on it: "When someone speaks in a whisper, you have to get very close to hear.  In fact, you have to put your ear near the person's mouth.  We lean toward a whisper, and that's what God wants.  The goal of hearing the heavenly Father's voice isn't just hearing His voice; it's intimacy with Him.  That's why He speaks in a whisper.  He wants to be as close to you as humanly possible!  He loves us, likes us, that much."

So how does God speak?  In this book Mark Batterson explores 7 love languages, providing examples of how we can hear from God.  God can speak through Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings, and Pain.  As I was reading through the stories shared in these pages, I was reminded of times in my life and of other stories I've heard in which God spoke.  Not audibly, but in a way that was clear.  This book can help someone recognize and discern when God is whispering.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh & Sean McDowell

Evidence That Demands a Verdict was written by a man who set out to intellectually and historically disprove Christianity.  Yet instead, he discovered that the claims were true!  This book is a collection of the evidence that he gathered, giving Christians a solid defense of what they believe to be true (commonly referred to as apologetics).

The first version of this book was published in 1972 and was previously updated in 1999.  Since then new discoveries have been made and new challenges to the claims of Christianity have come forth.  This book contains the same truth as previous versions and is now up-to-date for the current generation. 

While you could read this book cover-to-cover, it is more like a resource book, having 722 pages of text.  There is a table of contents, chapter outlines, and a subject index to help the reader find specific topics.  I read bits and pieces of the book and found that the text is easy for the average reader to understand.  It's not too intellectual. 

My favorite part of the book so far is the author's testimony that he gives at the beginning entitled, "He Changed My Life."  It is a very honest, powerful story.  He shares not only how he came to faith, but also how his life changed afterward.

Josh McDowell writes "One precaution when using apologetics: God saves - apologetics does not.  On the other hand, God often uses apologetics, or evidences, to help clear away obstacles to faith that many people erect, and also to show that faith in Christ is reasonable."  

If that's what you are looking for, then this is the book for you!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.