hope, Love, Power in Christ, Self Control

Embracing Christ in Chaos

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Have you ever lost Christ somewhere between frantic phone calls and forms? That was me this past month!

August hit our family like Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. Blustery, unforgiving, and abundant in chaos, one crisis after the next landed on our doorstep. Wave after wave, I gasped for air, longing for sunlight with little reprieve.

A Break in the Clouds

Although I’m still gasping a bit, God’s steadfast beams are beginning to peek through the angry clouds still hanging over our home. And I’ll bet you might be feeling tossed about as well! Whether you’re rebuilding your life from scratch or knee-deep in back to school craziness, new beginnings can be overwhelming.

Dwell in Him

For me, the sunlight began to edge its way in a few weeks ago upon the wise words of author Micah Maddox. She shared her own chaotic month. Although preparing her children to return to school, launching her new book Anchored In: Experience a Power-Full Life in a Problem-Filled World and having just moved, she still found peace. And that peace resided in Psalm 27. In the simple reminder to dwell in Christ.

Hearing these words, something in me broke. It had arrested my stress. It broke the chain on my heart and released my soul. A door unlocked and freed me from my self-imposed prison.

My soul rejoiced in praise for a reunion with the One who is there with us everyday, every moment. The One who I’d forgotten over the last few weeks. The One who always stands ready with boundless love and a warm embrace. What solace in falling into His arms. I’d missed my Jesus hugs! Why had I forgotten to ask? Why had I ignored His still, small voice?

Contentment Anytime

I’d forgotten Paul’s teaching that Christ provides contentment in any circumstance, not just in the moments when life is good (Phillipians 4:11). I’d forgotten to fling myself at Christ’s feet when chaos first strikes. Not wait until I’ve hit rock bottom. To seek Christ with unrelenting steadfastness at the start. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

A Spirit of Power, Love and Self Control

Author Holley Gerth has also reminded me of truth during this dark time. Just the title of her soon to be released book, Fiercehearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely, has led me to back to the same verse that God has been speaking over me for the last few months. God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self control (2 Timothy 1:7). That even in the darkness, God has given me the spirit of a fierce-hearted warrior princess. That in my times of distress, I’m to fight to seek Him. That I already have the power within me to fight the darkness. The power of the Holy Spirit that dwells within me and every believer who has accepted Christ as her Savior. What power could be more effective or magnificent? We just have to press our soul’s call button and it’s there! Say a prayer and it is there!

And not only are we constantly blessed with His incomparable power, but His limitless, unconditional love. A love like nothing we’ll ever experience from humans in this world. A love more consistent, dutiful, pure, and complete than any human can ever give. And again, it is there as His offering to us, anytime, anywhere. Isn’t that just soul-restoring?!

As if God’s supernatural power and love weren’t enough, the Holy Spirit also grants us a spirit of self control. Not just self control to prevent us from eating that tasty potato chip to quell the anxiety our darkness brings, but self control to reach out to Him in our time of need. Not to reach for the remote, our credit cards, or something else to distract us from our pain. But to reach for the Word, to pray, to connect with Him in an intimate way that soothes our present suffering. To hand over our fears, anxieties, darkness, and pain to the One who can handle it all so much better than we ever could alone.

So as much as I’ve hated being away from you wonderful women the last few weeks, I’m thankful for the chaos I’m starting to embrace. I’m thankful for the Jesus embrace that produced this post. I’m grateful that I waited patiently in His time to hear it. Because He knew the message that I was to send. He knew the words I’d stopped and started several times before weren’t His, but mine. That my words couldn’t make His difference. That only His could. That regardless of our circumstances, we must remember to dwell in Him always and fight with the spirit of power, love, and self control that He has given us.

I’m praying for you in the midst of your own chaos! Be brave and fight to seek Him through the darkness!

REFLECT:
1. How can you fight to find Christ in your present chaos?
2. If you’re not in chaos now, how can you prepare to fight to find Christ when darkness strikes?

RESOURCES:
1. Anchored In: Experience a Power-Full Life in a Problem-Filled World by Micah Maddox (Releases TODAY! Order here!)
2. Fiercehearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely by Holley Gerth (Releases Oct 3rd. Preorder now for awesome giveaways!)

GIVEAWAY!
Leave a comment by September 30th to be entered to win your very own copy of  Anchored In: Experience a Power-Full Life in a Problem-Filled World by Micah Maddox (*THIS IS A CHANGE*)! Winner will be emailed in early October.  Bonus for bloggers: If you’re the winner, I’ll feature your blog on mine and on social media during October!

Congrats to our August giveaway winner, Maureen B! Since she’s also a blogger, I’ll be featuring her blog this month! Click here to enjoy!

FOR READERS: September Inspiration!

Be inspired by other moms braving back to school and new beginnings! Click here to read their stories!

FOR BLOGGERS: Welcome to the Mom-ventures Monthly Link Up!

September Theme: Back to School & New Beginnings

  • Feel free to share a post recounting how Christ has seen you through this busy back to school season or simply any new beginning!
  • Insert the button & link up link: Include this image with link up URL in your participating blog posts. That way, your blog visitors can click their way straight to the party!
  • Leave 2 Comments: Please choose 2 link up posts. Leave an encouraging comment on each.
  • Share on Social Media! Share your favorite posts from the link up!
  • Tell your Followers! Share this link up with your email subscribers so they can join the party too!

Connection, Kindness

Choose Kindness

shutterstock_160575743A few years ago, my son was super into origami. Spending countless hours meticulously bending and folding paper into mini masterpieces, he protected his crafts with a ferocity rivaling a mother dragon. As only a nine-year-old boy would, he proudly displayed his creations in his bedroom’s origami museum to protect and admire his labors.

That’s why I nearly fainted when he offered one of his freshly crafted origami cranes to a stranger.

We had just come out of the library that balmy summer afternoon. Bustling along, clicking errands off our To Do list, I prepared to squeeze myself into our tin can of a hot minivan. Just before the leather seat threatened to scorch my hamstrings, I heard a little voice mumble something indistinctive in another direction. Realizing it was my son’s, and determined to attack our next task, I turned to bark some version of mama orders like “Get in the car! We’ve got things to do and can’t be late to pick up your sister!” But my “mama ire” was quickly stalled by a disheveled elderly man sitting alone in his car. Panning over to my son, I soon gathered that he was attempting a conversation with our chronologically gifted friend.

Like a freight train screeching to a halt to spare someone sprawled across the tracks, my attention laser-beamed on my son. Why is he talking to this man? Doesn’t he know not to talk to strangers? Plus, this particular stranger looked next in line for the Curmudgeon of the Year award, complete with curling lip.

“Sir, would you like my crane?” my son interjected through my protective panic.

And then it hit me… yes, my son knew all of those things, yet he chose kindness.

He chose to step across those invisible boundaries we erect for ourselves and our children. Ones grounded in good intention, but dividing us from real connection. Ones that mean to protect us and our children from harm – borne out of responsibility – but sometimes fueled by fear.

As our curmudgeonly friend’s face transformed into a picture of grace received, I knew God was whispering through my nine-year-old. I could hear his tender voice lift me on waves of eternal hope with these reminders…

• Busyness blames, but kindness cares.
• Fear kills kindness. Kindess bears love. God is love.
• Kindness can be an act of worship – paying it forward in God’s name.
• Kindness can be His love expressed, and there is nothing greater. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
• Kindness can be sacrifice – of time, of energy, of prized possessions. Yet Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Let’s follow His lead.

Like my son’s origami, God bends and shapes us to prepare to add us to His eternal museum in heaven. We are His masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10). As His masterpieces, let’s keep fear from leaving us reluctant to abide in His love, balking at our chances to choose kindness. Dare to choose kindness, as God boldly chooses grace for us everyday.

Reflect:

1. What is one small act of kindness you can integrate into your daily life?
2. How can you push fear aside to fuel love and kindness?

Resources:
A Case for Kindness by Lisa Barrickman
Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman

August Giveaway!
Leave a comment to be entered to win a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card! Winner will be emailed in early September.

Congrats to our July Giveaway winner, Lindsey Z.! Check out her blog here!

Post Featured!

blossom-in-faith-logo6I’m honored that this post was featured in the 9/14/17 Blossom in Faith Newsletter as a #FreshlyPickedFind! Thanks for your support, Kelly Basham!

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Mom-ventures Monthly Link Up

FOR READERS: August Inspiration!

Be inspired by the incredible women of She Speaks 2017! Click here to read their stories!

FOR BLOGGERS: Welcome to the Mom-ventures Monthly Link Up!

August Theme: She Speaks Shares 2017 – If you attended, feel free to share a blog post recalling your SS experience or even your most favorite post – whatever suits you, honors SS, and glorifies God!

Insert the button & link up link: Include this image with site link in your participating blog posts so your blog visitors can click their way straight to the party!  IMAGE LINK. SITE LINK. IMAGE & LINK CODE.

Leave 2 Comments: Please choose 2 link up posts. Leave an encouraging comment on each.

Share on Social Media! Share this link up post and your favorite posts from the link up!

Tell your Followers! Share this link up with your email subscribers so they can join the party too!

Connection, hope

She Hopes

She Speaks Photo Book and Nametag

Heart hammering, I edged my way through throngs of busy women sporting identical teal tote bags. Which was more terrifying? Being a first-time attendee, knowing no one, or being a green-as-grass writer at a writers conference? As panic set in, I settled for a three-way tie.

We all arrived filled with hope. Many literally toted hope in the rustling pages of book proposals for prospective publishers. Others hoped to make life-long friendships. Like me, some hoped to feel qualified enough to be there and to find a place amongst so many accomplished women. And yes, we all hoped to find a friendly meal partner!

Last weekend, hope was palpable in the air like the thick North Carolina humidity blanketing the conference center. The She Speaks Conference had begun!

Riding waves of emotion, I asked myself…

What am I doing here?

How did this science girl end up at a writers conference?

I suppose only God can answer those questions. But I do know that the road there has been weary, full of almosts, broken dreams, and crushed hope. Yet that same road has forged my imperfect story that I was there to learn how to share.

I soon learned that my tattered story also had companions to spare.

In an attempt to quell my raging nerves and seek peace in some sort of connection with at least a sliver of the 800 perfectly coiffed and accomplished women surrounding me, I started asking questions.

Do you have any publisher or agent appointments?

What is the subject of your book proposal?

Little did I know that these questions would build a beautiful vulnerability bridge between us.

Each She Speaks sister seemed to have a story like mine. Stories that dethroned the mythical lives I’d assigned them minutes earlier.
• An adorable young mom shared the devastating loss of her husband.
• Another bubbly sister recounted how her young son passed unexpectedly.
• Beautiful single moms shared the pain of divorce.
• An accomplished writer revealed her struggle with the shame of being a teen mom.
• Some sweet moms shared struggles with their faith and their journeys back to God.
• A spunky mama and I even bonded over toilet training our teens with special needs.

But even as heavy as these conversations became, they all returned to God’s grace, the gateway to hope (2 Thessalonians 2:16). Each story underlined God’s power to transform our troubles into a door of hope (Hosea 2:15). These simple truths became our unspoken anthem. They reverberated throughout the conference center with as much power as the mammoth amps bathing us in Elevation’s praise music.

So, my She Speaks sisters, may God’s grace dwell within you as you fulfill your calling.  Run your race with grace as the Holy Spirit fills you with His power. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV 1984).

I’ll see you before your door of hope when we meet again!

Learn more about the ladies of She Speaks! Visit this link now to be connected with their blogs, all on one page! Be sure to swing back frequently, as more blogs will be added through August 31st!

Reflect:
1. How have hope and God’s grace intertwined in your life?
2. How has God blessed you with vulnerability bridges?

Dive Deeper: Why Hope? Grace! By John Piper

Giveaway!
Win a $20 Target gift card! Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win. Winner will be chosen on July 31st!

 

 

 

Mom-ventures Monthly Link Up

FOR BLOGGERS: Welcome to the Mom-ventures Monthly Link Up!

Theme This Month: She Speaks Shares 2017 – If you attended, feel free to share a blog post recalling your SS experience or even your most favorite post – whatever suits you, honors SS, and glorifies God!

  • Insert the button & link up link: Include this image with site link in your participating blog posts so your blog visitors can click their way straight to the party!  IMAGE LINK. SITE LINK. IMAGE & LINK CODE.
  • Leave 2 Comments: Please choose 2 link up posts. Leave an encouraging comment on each.
  • Share on Social Media! Share this link up post and your favorite posts from the link up!
  • Tell your Followers! Share this link up with your email subscribers so they can join the party too!

Connection

Soul to Soul

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:13-14, NIV)

“What is she thinking?”

That’s the question I ask myself hundreds of times each day.

She is our twelve-year-old daughter, who happens to have Down syndrome.

She is significantly delayed cognitively and physically, more than even most children with Down syndrome.

She is also a spit-fire strawberry blond who loves to run, laugh, listen to music, and give us a tween “stink eye” when she doesn’t get her way.

She is a gift from God who checks our “pride monsters” at the door.

She reminds us to slow our pace to God’s “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG).

She is so many things, just as we all are.

We are each a unique life bundle. Our lives are canvases of characteristics painted by our actions, choices, and thoughts.

And this is where my throat lumps. What are our daughter’s thoughts? Specifically, her deepest thoughts? Selfishly, I want to hear them because that’s how I connect on a soul level with others. I want to touch her soul with my words, but it’s like a wisp in the wind. I can see it – almost grab it sometimes when she peers into my eyes – but then it dances away on gusts beyond my reach…

Our daughter with Down syndrome does speak a few words, but oftentimes they’re out of context. That said, her immediate physical needs motivate her to speak in context…  like “want to eat,” “cookie,” or “please.” Her spoken word bank tops out around 10 to 20.

She has never used words to express how she feels, however. For feelings, she employs physical-behavioral means, which come in the form of a broad smile after that cookie, a hoe-down-worthy stomping after being told “no,” or her go-to for “mad:” a sit-down-and-won’t-budge.

Since she isn’t able to express her feelings with words, I feel distance between us. I’m a verbal processor. Words, language, and conversation are like oxygen to me. Our other two children adeptly express themselves with words – sometimes too well! Why can’t I have that with our twelve-year-old daughter?

This is when I plaintively pray for a device to plug into her brain that reports her thoughts!

Where is technology when I truly need it? I want to know whether she knows God. I want to know whether she loves me. I want to know whether she is happy living in our home.

God then tenderly taps me on the shoulder, interrupting my reverie. He reminds me of His truth about our girl: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

And I melt. Our girl, in all her meekness, is set for a beautiful inheritance.

Perhaps she has already moved to a higher plane and has a direct line to the deepest One of all? Maybe her unique-to-Down-syndrome Brushfield spots – tiny stars in her deep blue irises – were placed there by God to remind me of the mysteries and the majesties of His vast universe? Maybe He is just reminding me that my meager human understanding will always be just that? (Proverbs 3:5)

Maybe I’m the one with the shallow connection to God?

Maybe I’m not meant to connect with her the way I want to now – at least not on this earth? Maybe I’m to wait until we reunite in eternity? If so, I can’t wait to plug into her beautiful soul on that glorious day! I long to collect all her hopes, dreams, and deepest desires…

And this is when gratitude creeps in.

God knows me so well. He knows how to draw me close. With a sheepish side-grin and a wink upward, I clasp my hands together and close my eyes. I begin to pray, thanking Him for the gift that He has given us in our girl. The lessons that she teaches us. That God loves us enough to entrust us with her care. But mostly that our girl keeps me plugged into God, the ultimate source of soul connection and renewal!

Reflect:
1. With whom do you struggle to communicate? (Maybe they don’t have a cognitive or physical disability, but they have personality traits or habits that rub you the wrong way or prevent a healthy relationship.)
2. Write a prayer asking God to help sort out your struggle in His will.

Dive Deeper:
“Why Your Brand of Unique is Perfect” by Amy Carroll

Giveaway!
Leave a comment below to be entered to win a Target gift card!