A Beginners Guide to Parenting // 7 Things An Expecting Mama Wants You To Know

As I sit here and write this, I'm days away from laboring my first child and meeting my precious son! I'm filled with eager expectation in holding him in my arms and pure exhaustion from the hives, swollen feet, and heartburn. I've come to learn that pregnancy is a whole lot harder than I ever imagined, but also more joyful than anything I've experienced!

As an expecting mama nearing the end of this pregnancy journey, I finally understand some of the frustrations, wants, and thoughts of a pregnant lady. Before pregnancy, I had no idea what was on the mind of a woman carrying a human being! 

There are some thoughts I'd like to share with you--in case you are like me pre pregnancy--to help you navigate conversations with an expecting mama. To help you avoid tapping into the nerves and emotional roller coaster of a pregnant woman.

1.  We get lots of advice.

Few people get more advice than expecting mamas and new parents. We are bombarded with suggestions, input, and advice. While having all the facts is nice, being the recipient of feedback from dozens of people can be a bit overwhelming.

Perhaps wait until a parent asks for input before sharing it. I know I've sought advice many times and have appreciated the feedback. Instead of throwing your opinion out there into the world, wait for it to be sought. It will be received much more openly and likely used. 

2.  We know we look tired, swollen, etc.

I can't tell you how many times I was told I looked tired or more swollen than usual. Boy, was it wonderful to be reminded (said no expecting mama ever)! I can tell you that as a woman's body begins to change, she deeply feels it. The extra weight, the sleepless nights, the clothes that don't fit, etc. Please don't remind a pregnant lady of what they already know. The truth is, many take those changes in their body seriously and at times feel something on the spectrum of not beautiful.

I remember one day looking at a picture taken of me and literally not recognizing my face it had changed so much. Or feeling like a whale by the end of the pregnancy. And so on...really. Please just be mindful of comments you make to a pregnant woman in regards to her appearance. Be like a guy I know named Tom, who every Sunday told me I looked fantastic. Sure did sound nice (even if I didn't feel it)!

3.  We get the same questions all the time.

When are you due? Do you know the gender? What's its name? Aren't you due any minute now? How do you feel? 

Early on the questions were exciting as I anticipated the addition to our family! But as I got closer to the end of pregnancy and feeling over it--just wanting to have a baby already--the questions were daunting. Something to keep in mind as you interact with ladies in their third trimester ;)

4.  Instead of reminding us of our current stresses, encourage us of future beauty.

Much of the above highlights a current stress or negative feeling, which was discouraging at times. Instead of reminding an expecting mama of her current stressors, encourage her of what's to come! I had one dear friend text me this a few days before my labor,

"Moms...bodies are incredible. We were made to give birth. So go into it [labor] empowered! You were MADE to be Roman's mama. And it may not be a magical experience, but it's YOUR experience and you get baby Roman out of it."

When I got this text, I was so encouraged. In fact, there were parts of that encouragement that I would say in my head during painful contractions in labor to get me through the pain. Never underestimate the power of a good boost of encouragement!

5.  We're trying and appreciate grace.

For some, pregnancy will be harder than imagined; I know it was for me. Navigating the new challenges of an emotional roller coaster, changes in our body, sleep deprivation, possible complications, and more can cause be overwhelming. Not to mention, pregnancy brain is a real thing! For the pregnant lady, grace goes a long way!

6.  We do appreciate your help.

At the end of the day, regardless if there are a few triggers that might send us to the bottom of a Ben & Jerry's carton, your help is appreciated! Even for the doers, which I am. 

7.  We love celebrating with you!

Beyond anything else, an expecting mama always loves celebrating her child with the people in her life! Know that you are valued and appreciated by your pregnant friends and family members. 

A Beginners Guide to Parenting // A Journey Through Pregnancy

I still remember so vividly the day I found out I was pregnant with Roman. The moment I saw a positive pregnancy test in the bathroom as I was getting ready for work. The tears and prayers on my commute that morning. The anticipation I felt all day of sharing the news with Ryan. Giving him an early birthday present of a onesie and the dreamy conversation we had that night on our walk.

Finding out you're expecting a child is one of the most pivotal moments in anyone's life, regardless of what end of the emotional spectrum you're on. And that moment is only the beginning--the start of an emotional roller coaster that will last the rest of your life as you journey through pregnancy and parenthood.

It's quite possible at times you'll feel like you're alone in your feelings. Know you're not. You might feel as if something hard you're going through will never end, Know it will. The journey you are on will be challenging at times but it will also bring along with it some of the most wonderful memories.

Feeling the baby kick for the first time. Holding your child when they enter the world. Seeing your spouse lock eyes with your little one. These are all moments you'll cherish forever.

This series will touch on many aspects of pregnancy, labor, and becoming a new parent in order to encourage you and give you practical tools for the journey. Today I'd like to share with you a few of the practical tools and some fun ideas for the pregnancy journey. 

The first is a reading plan I wrote for YouVersion called "A Journey Through Pregnancy." It's a 7-day guide to walk through many of the experiences expecting parents face and is a must read for anyone navigating pregnancy.

I'm excited to share some fun ideas you can implement on pregnancy as well!

  • Pregnancy Journal - I found the cutest pregnancy journal that allowed me to track the journey. I was able to add baby bump pictures, write down what I was experiencing each week, and share fun memories. It's something I'll be able to give Roman one day and he'll be able to see how his father and mother enjoyed the journey with him. Here's the one I purchased on Amazon.
  • Email Account for the Child - Perhaps my favorite thing we did is create an email account for our son. The idea is that when he turns 18 years old, we'll turn over the account to him and he'll have years of emails from Ryan and me. Emails with pictures, videos, and thoughts from us. It will be a treasure chest of thoughts and memories he can have for a lifetime.
  • Baby Bump Pictures - A fun idea is to take a baby bump picture each month of the pregnancy to track your growth and some fun facts. Here are mine, although I was far too tired at 36 weeks to be creative, haha!
  • Gender Reveal Party - A popular event for expecting parents, a gender reveal party is a fun way to celebrate your little one with family and friends. There are so many themes out there to fit your personality and I honestly had such a blast at mine! We went with a Bows & Arrows theme that had a tribal, Native American feel to it. Loved it! Check out Pinterest and Etsy for all your party planning needs. Here's a few pictures of mine:

I hope these suggestions are of value and helpful to your journey. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments! Next week I'll be sharing 7 things a pregnant mama wants you to know, so come back!

5 Things That Actually Get Easier with Parenthood

A few weeks ago I was once again battling my tiny army in the great bedtime war, a daily occurrence in our home.  Somehow amid the laughing and crying and question-asking, I heard my phone buzz on the counter.  Please let it be my husband saying he’s coming home early with a Starbuck’s latte in hand!  The one-year-old was bawling, the toddler was fleeing the scene and let’s be honest friends, who the heck knows where my first-born was?  Probably drawing on one of my walls or raiding the pantry or both.  Kids are talented like that.  By the grace of Jesus, I miraculously reached my cell and checked the texts.

Not from the hubby.  Actually, it wasn’t from anyone I was expecting.  My brother-in-law sent the message and his words caught my eye.

You should write a blog post talking about the things that get easier once you become a parent.” 

And snap.  I wish I could have taken a picture of my facial expression in that moment because WHAT…   

Was he for real?  Things getting EASIER after welcoming little humans into your life?  The same little humans who murdered my nice couch and punched holes through my drywall earlier that week?  Those babies?  He and my sister had just welcomed sweet girl #2 earlier that month.  I’m sure he was delirious and very sleep-deprived; a combination that makes you do ridiculous things.  But out of curiosity, I kept reading.

Cause it seems like literally EVERYTHING gets harder after kids, but that can’t be true.” 

It can’t??  I physically stepped back in an attempt to readjust my current negative thinking.  Was there even one thing I could honestly say gets easier after having children?  Help me out here, Jesus.  And suddenly, in the middle of all the chaos, He gently took my hand, drew me out from the muddled fog, and placed me in the clear pasture of His grace. 


I knew His voice--calm and reassuring.  I knew He had a ‘best’ He wanted to show me.  And slowly I began to see my surroundings for what they really were.  My eyes saw the little boy running from me, but this time I caught a glimpse of his mischievous grin as he looked behind him, hoping his Mommy would come get him.  He wanted me.  He wanted my love and attention and cuddles.  I saw the little baby reaching up for the one person he knew could make it all better.  He needed me and only me.  And I looked at the scattered drawings on the floor my eldest boy drew with the most intricate detail and care.  He showed it to me a couple hours ago because he was proud.  He wanted Momma’s approval.  My opinion mattered...I mattered. 

God showed me His beauty in a matter of seconds and I was eager to see more.

I quickly replied.  “I’m gonna do it.  I need to do it.

So here I am, staying true to my word.  But more importantly, I’m choosing to see joy in the midst of the mess.  There are only five points here, but I’m pretty sure I could have done more.  Yeah, I’m surprised too.

1.)  It’s easier to lose your mind. 

For real.  You go crazy when you raise mini-people.  I have spent hours looking for keys that were in my pockets.  I wake up in the middle of the night hearing screams from the monitor, but it’s dead silent.  I can barely make sentences and refer to all items as “that thing over there.”  I make no sense and it just comes with the exhausted territory.  I don’t sleep.  I don’t eat.  And yet somehow I am expected to give of myself 24/7 without being able to take care of simple needs like peeing on my own or taking a shower once a week.  If they know you are somewhere in the home, it’s over.  Checkmate, my friend.  They will find you.

Let it be of consolation to you to know it’s normal to feel like you are going insane because you probably are.  But good news!  You are not alone.  Every person who has a child, especially young ones, feels your pain.  We are all in the same circus boat and even if it seems like it’s sinking, just know it’s going to be okay and we will survive.  I mean, it’s highly probable.

2.)  It’s easier to let go of expectations because you will have lots of practice.

I always have these grandiose ideas and visions for creating family memories but I actually don’t think I can recall one ever going according to plan.  Things pop up, kids freak out, schedules change…life happens.  Flexibility is a given in the parent world, but often it’s hard to let that piece of reality sink in.  And sometimes it’s even harder to let it become the norm.  In an interesting turn of events; letting go can actually be a gift.  I know...it’s shocking.  But true.  The pressure to try and make everything happen the way you want it to can be intense.  If we allow Jesus to step in and remove our self-imposed burdens, the world will look and feel a whole lot lighter.

I have a son with special needs and our plans change by the hour.  I used to freak out about it, but now I’m learning to make flexibility my friend.  It isn’t easy in and of itself, but when we practice living with open hands and open hearts we give God the opportunity to step in and change our circumstances in a way that goes far beyond anything we could have dreamed.  He is the God of abundance and His ability to make beauty out of the ashes will never fail.  Trust Him.

3.)  It’s easier to laugh at it all. 

Kids have this uncanny way of bringing joy into the mundane.  They see life through their innocence and experience it with fresh, pure hearts.  There’s a reason Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)  Kids understand what matters.  And they know that one of the most important things you can do in this life is just to laugh and have fun! 

I love my goofballs.  Sometimes I’m in the worst mood and I look at my sweet child’s face.  He smiles ear to ear and it completely captures my heart.  I’m a sucker for baby hugs and cutie kisses.  But man, you add in their belly laughs and I’m gone!  Soon my grin is as big as his.

I catch myself laughing during the precious times and the ‘Sweet-Jesus-help-me’ times.  When it’s psycho nuts in my home and I’m just standing there not knowing what to do or who to take care of first, I just start laughing!  It’s like my brain doesn’t know how to respond so it says, “Okay, this is too much.  Let’s crack up.”  And that’s when I begin to cackle like a crazy person.   See point #1.

4.)  It’s easier to beat yourself up like never before. 

I’ve always had a problem with shame.  It’s my thing.  But when you are in charge of raising decent human beings, let alone keeping them alive, things get real.  I am certainly the hardest on myself when it comes to taking care of my family.  They mean the world to me and somehow each day I think I’m majorly screwing things up.  I promise to reimburse them for whatever therapy they may need later on in life.  But here’s the thing…every single parent thinks they are missing the mark!  I have never met a mom or dad who thinks they have it all together.  Instead, they feel like they are not good enough or too much or someplace in between.  And the guilt can be so defeating.  Luckily, we don’t have to live there.

The goodness of our Jesus is unending.   He isn’t about perfection, which is great since no one is perfect.  He’s about our transformation and I can’t think of anything else in life that changes you more besides being a parent.  Your kids see your rough days.  They see you mess up over and over again, but when you come to them and say sorry I truly believe it gives them a sense of relief!  Not just because you are pursuing reconciliation, but I really believe this helps them avoid the unrealistic standards of perfection they may place on themselves in order to gain your affection.  They will know they are always loved no matter what they do, and that model of unconditional love will stay with them wherever this life leads them. 

We are all doing our best.  God knows that and He covers us in His grace.  Whenever we feel weak, we know He is strong and more than able to fill in the multiple gaps.

5.)  It’s easier to understand the heart of God. 

The instant you hold your child for the first time, your relationship with Jesus goes to a whole new level.  It’s the most surreal, humbling, and scary feeling in the world.  God has entrusted this precious life to you.  This beautiful creature that you would literally die for…they are your heart walking outside of your body.  The love you have for them is nothing less than extravagant. 

In that divine moment, God looks at us, His beloved children, and softly whispers, “I love you even more.”  It’s almost unbelievable and yet, it’s the most important thing we need to believe.  This is the Love that surpassing all understanding.  This is the Love that endures forever.  Our Heavenly Father’s love stretches past any human’s capability to love on his or her own, and that includes parents.  As much as you love your child, it’s just a glimpse of how much God adores you.  You are loved perfectly and wonderfully just because you are you. 

And as if that weren’t enough, when we experience God’s love more fully, He gives us the blessing of passing on His love to our kids.  There’s really no greater honor.

We can all agree that parenting is a complicated ordeal.  You don’t get a handbook with all the answers, but hopefully, we can encourage each other along the way.  Just like being in love or picking out paint colors, it’s comforting to know that the simple and the hard can coexist.    

So take heart, fellow parenting-warrior.  With all the other complexities you may be facing today, let me reassure you just as my Jesus reassured me.

You are doing well, my friend. Very well, indeed.

Becky Beresford is an author, blogger, and guest speaker.  She is currently in the process of finishing two books and pursuing publishing. She received her Master’s Certificate from Moody Theological Seminary and loves encouraging women in their everyday walks with Jesus. She values real, genuine relationships and all the coffee.  Becky lives in Huntley, IL with her husband and three crazy awesome boys. When she isn’t busy trying to keep them alive, she loves to hang with her family and friends and travel if the budget is being nice. You can follow her on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/frazzledandfree/.

Life Update -- Baby Rust is Here!

I'm excited to share with you all the latest update in my life--Roman Roy Rust has entered the world! I gave birth to our precious son on June 16th at 10:22 PM; he was a healthy 8 lbs 2 oz. Ryan and I are so in love with this little guy! And I'm captivated by his good looks--he resembles Ryan so much, which I adore :) 

Right now we are in the middle of a guest series on the blog while I learn to navigate being a new mama so you're getting to hear from some people that I find to be incredibly insightful. It's nice to hear from fresh voices as well and I'm praying that those who are sharing with us will be used to minister to many!

Please pray for Ryan and me as we navigate parenthood and care for our little man!

Missing Out

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
— Hebrews 10:22-25

The other day I was driving around town, running some errands for work. It was a warm day, but not too hot, and I had my windows down, blasting some country music because that’s pretty much all I listen to in the summer months. As I passed under 6th Avenue, for no reason at all, an old friend came to mind--Preston. I’ve known Preston for about a decade; we met through a mutual friend. I wouldn’t say that he and I are close by any means, but because he’s one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever met I would definitely say that we are good friends. It was odd that Preston had randomly popped into my mind because it had probably been about 6 months since we had grabbed a pint at the local pub with our mutual friend Nick. The moment came and went, and I continued on with my drive.

That next morning I logged onto Facebook, and there at the top of the feed, Preston had posted a picture of his family. As I read on, I soon found out that his mother had passed away the day before. I was immediately saddened to hear the news, especially because I knew that Preston’s father had passed just a couple years prior. I was reading through everyone’s comments and then it hit me… my moment in the car just the day before. Preston's mother had breathed her last breathe right around the same time I happened to be driving under 6th Avenue. My heart sank as I stared at the computer, and as the words on the screen fell out of focus, my eyes welled up with water. I sat there in my kitchen, allowing myself to feel the weight of the moment.

I was overcome with emotion for a couple reasons. The first obviously being that an old friend of mine was mourning over the death of a parent. The second reason being that I felt like I had missed out on an opportunity, I missed out on a moment from God. Surely it wasn’t by coincidence that Preston had randomly popped into my head that day. I mean, the timing is simply ridiculous. I hadn’t seen or talked to Preston in over 6 months and all of sudden, the exact same day his mother passes, it’s just too crazy. I have to believe that God was trying to speak to me. I have to believe God was trying to grab my attention so I could reach out to a friend with a simple, “Hey man, thinking about you, hope you’re doing well.” And I feel like I missed it. And that’s a big bummer. I don’t ever want to miss out on what God has for me.

In Hebrews 10, the writer highlights the sacrifice of Christ, where all believers now gain direct access to Him. By His Holy Spirit, we are given this holy closeness which allows us to interact and engage with the creator of the universe. And if you engage with the God of all creation, you better believe He’s going to speak to you every now and again. The writer spells out some directives on how to fill up our time until Jesus returns and I feel like this is a perfect concoction to ready ourselves for those times when God speaks and wants us to move. 

1. Let us draw near to God. (v22)

It starts with drawing near to God, setting aside time to read the word, pray, meditate, and listen. Take part of your day to stop everything you’re doing and engage with God. This is a faith builder. Faith and drawing near to Jesus are inseparable. Even more so, I would say that this includes 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Invite Jesus into your everyday, ordinary life. Invite him into your home, into your workplace, into your conversations with others, and even into your car!

2. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. (v23)

Have you ever been driving down the road and took a second to change the radio dial or check a text from your phone, only to look up and realize your car is no longer within the lane? Have you ever missed a turn because you weren’t paying attention? To hold unswervingly means that you are focused 100% of the time. Don’t miss out on what’s right in front of you. If you take your eyes off the road, your might find yourself braking and jerking the steering wheel to get back in your lane, and this will only put you behind schedule. You may even have to take a different route.

3. Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (v24)

4. Let us not give up meeting together…let us encourage one another. (v25)

Make your life about people. God created us to be in community with one another; we aren’t designed to do this by ourselves. Be intentional in the way you care for others. To quote the young Michael Jackson,

“Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter. Togetherness, well that’s all I’m after. Whenever you need me, I’ll be there.”

This may seem small, but it is a discipline. And discipline is rarely easy.

Draw near to God, always. Be sensitive to His voice and His leading. Be strong in your faith and your everlasting hope. Be expectant that He will move. And go out of your way to encounter those around you.

How many times has God tried to speak to me, but I’ve been too dense to get through to? It’s hard to say what I’ve missed out on, but I’ll tell you what, I’m thankful for Facebook. I’m thankful that I happened to log on that day and see that post. I’m thankful that I did get to reach out to Preston and tell him how much I care about him, and that I’m here if he needed anything. Even though I felt like I was a day late and dollar short, it was a good reminder that God will try to capture our attention in the simplest of ways. Open up your eyes and ears; He’s all around. Let us not miss what’s right in front of us.

Dave Anderson is a Worship Ministry Leader at Red Rocks Church in Denver, CO. Born and raised in Colorado, he and his wife love hiking, biking, and apparently home remodeling (their house is forever in a state of being “updated”). Guitars, summer nights, BBQ’s, and time with family and friends pretty much sum up the rest of his hobbies and interests.

Life the Jesus Way: 3 Ways to Stop Playing the Game

I have this growing sense that I have wasted way too much energy in my life on things that just don’t matter.

Growing up, I would attend a weeklong basketball camp every summer. On the first day, the coaches would place us all on teams and then we would spend the next five days competing to become “Camp Champ.” What more could a ten-year-old kid ask for?

One year I got placed on the green team (we naturally called ourselves the Green Machine) and spent the first two days giving everything I had to ensure that, come Friday, we would hoist that little fifty cent piece of plastic in the air declaring to the world that we were the best. But Wednesday morning I walked into the gym and received terrible news. I had been traded to the Blue Buffoons – the worst team in the entire camp.

I was devastated (and furious) because all the effort I put into helping the Green Machine win was not just wasted, it was now working against me. Life is so difficult sometimes isn’t it?

Nobody likes being told they’ve been playing the wrong game. I certainly didn’t.

So two thousand years ago, when a Jewish Rabbi named Jesus showed up and started changing the game, nobody knew quite what to do.

Beginning his ministry with the declaration that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:23, Mark 1:15), he went on to explain a brand new way to be human.

In this new system:

  •  The first shall be last and the last shall be first (Matthew 19:30)
  • If you want to find your life, lose it (Matthew 10:39)
  • If you want to be great, learn how to serve (Matthew 23:11)
  • Forgive everyone, even if their debt is so big they could never repay it (Matthew 18:21-35)
  • And be so generous that people think it is unfair (Matthew 20:1-16)

Bold move, Jesus. He flipped everything upside down and told the world to stop wasting so much energy playing the game. Meaning the call of Jesus is not to stop playing for the Green Machine and start playing for the Blue Buffoons; the call is to realize that the fifty-cent piece of plastic (and the “fame” that comes with it) is no longer the win.

In the Kingdom of Heaven, there is always enough. Our job is to realize that as a part of that new system, we are enough.

Okay, stick with me. Think of this new kingdom Jesus is talking about like a meal.

In the world, food is limited, so you better eat fast because other people at the table are in the way of you getting your fill. But in God’s kingdom, the feast is infinite, so the pressure is off. Meaning other people are not in the way of you getting your fill, they are on the way to you enjoying the meal to its fullest. You are free to sit with them, laugh with them, and enjoy the meal together. And when you try something you like, there is no longer any reason to hoard it or keep it to yourself; now you can tell everyone about it so they can experience it with you.

This paradigm shift is at the root of my growing suspicion that I waste way too much energy. Why do I gossip? Because if I can make other people look bad, I can gain some leverage on the world. Why do I stay bitter? Because if I focus on the struggles of others, I feel better about myself. Why do I try so hard to get recognition? Because I still don’t believe that I am enough.

Do you see how this works? When resources are limited, there is a brutal game to be won, and other people are competition. But when resources are infinite, you can stop playing the game and start seeing other people as eternal souls who need and deserve love and respect. When that happens, you stop competing and start celebrating, because these other people become the means through which you get to enjoy God’s infinite resources to their fullest. Of course, making this shift is no small task, so here are three ways we can practice.

1. Live Generously

Sometimes God must just laugh at how tightly we hold onto our possessions and our reputations. But if we believe the message of Jesus, then life is way too precious to waste on comparing ourselves and trying to one-up each other.  

Living generously means learning to celebrate people. It means honoring everyone, even if you have to be demoted for that to happen. It means that you genuinely desire to see others succeed, because if they win, you win.

2. Practice The Thousand Year Rule

Here’s a good question to ask yourself: Am I going to care about this a thousand years from now?

If the answer is no, then why are you wasting so much precious energy on it? That energy could be used to build somebody else up.

  •  That silly argument you had with a close friend that just feels so important right now. Not going to matter a thousand years from now.
  • That guy that cut you off on the highway, just to prove a point. Not going to matter a thousand years from now.
  • That award or recognition you so desperately desire. Not going to matter a thousand years from now.

What is going to matter is the way you cared for people and the quality time you spent with loved ones. So next time the blood starts boiling and you feel like you have to prove yourself to the world, try asking yourself that question.

3. Create A Saying

A simple saying is an excellent way to guide yourself back to the proper mindset. And it can be whatever you want it to be! Here’s one that works for me: “I’m not playing that game anymore.”

The goal is to stop playing the “prove yourself to the world” game and start playing the “live, love, and look like Jesus” game.

When I start to feel jealous of someone who is getting more recognition than me:

   - “I’m not playing that game anymore.

When a co-worker gets an opportunity I feel I am more qualified for:

   - “I’m not playing that game anymore.”

When traffic is ruining all of my plans:

   - “I’m not playing that game anymore.

I am not the best at this, so I have to say it to myself over and over again throughout the day. But the more I do, the more I realize the invitation of Jesus is far better than anything the world has to offer.

All of this is completely counter-intuitive. That is one of the things I love most about Jesus. So remember this is a process. Take it one day at a time, give yourself grace, and whether you find yourself playing for the Green Machine or the Blue Buffoons, remember to play with freedom…

For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!  

Ryan is the Missions Pastor at Seacoast Grace Church in Cypress, California. His passion is to lead his peers into lives of service, primarily focusing on the cities of Compton and Long Beach. He is also back in school slowly working on his Master’s Degree at Talbot School of Theology, which he plans on finishing sometime in the next 20 years. Any other time he has is spent surfing, playing basketball, and watching the Broncos.

NEW YouVersion Reading Plan // A Journey Through Pregnancy

Pregnancy has had its good moments and its unlovely moments. I've had some of my most joyful moments in this journey and some of my hardest. Even now I'm beyond the moon excited to meet our little boy next week but I'm miserable with an itchy stomach, swollen ankles, and over pregnancy.

So what did I do with this roller coaster? Naturally, I wrote about it! I've written a 7-day YouVersion reading plan on the highs and lows of pregnancy and what every mama can focus on in her journey through pregnancy!

Needing Less When I Want More

He must increase, but I must decrease.
— John 3:30

I know what it's like to feel unnoticed or unappreciated, and to then try and make myself visible to those around me with good works. To want to have just one person acknowledge my good ideas and efforts--to see me.

It's in our nature to desire to make up for the lack of attention from others. There's something inside of us that wants to be noticed and valued. When we don't feel we're getting that, we can go to unhealthy places of building ourselves up, trying to get ahead, or serving with the wrong motives.

I get it--it's discouraging to work hard and watch others get promoted ahead of you and to feel like you're being taken for granted. I think we've all been there. You've probably felt the proverbial punch in the gut when you've given so much only to be unrecognized.

Like I mentioned above, when we feel these emotions we have a tendency to want to make up for the gap in recognition. We want to make a play that gets us noticed. We want to increase our position or visibility so that others will recognize us.

At the beginning of 2017, God put the word "decrease" in my heart as my theme for the year. I felt deeply convicted to focus on becoming less so that Jesus could become more in my life. Hence, John 3:30 became my verse for the year.

Someone, maybe you, needs to read that verse today. To be reminded that it's not about you, but it's about Jesus. It always has been and always will be. When you can be honest with yourself that it's about Jesus, this verse will become important to you.

This verse is the words of John the Baptist. Jesus had begun baptizing--something John was known for. John's disciples come to him and point out as much. This is when you or I might cringe in pride, but not John. In fact, he proclaims that his joy is now complete! John recognizes that the time has come for him to start taking a step back; to decrease and for Jesus to increase.

When you feel the need to increase--to want more recognition and affirmation--decide to take less. Choose to want less; to decrease. When you decrease, Jesus is increased in your life. And when Jesus is increased in your life, the Son is glorified and God is honored.

Don't you want that from your life? Less stress over being "someone" or to perform for people and greater peace that Jesus is being glorified through and in you. And to be quite honest, "whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 32:12)

Seek the decrease in life. Choose to fade into the background so that Jesus is increased. 


Insecurity // "Go Forth in Strength"

When you embrace your value and God-ordained purpose in life, you will be able to walk in strength and confidence. The enemy will take notice of a person once riddled with insecurity standing strong, and he will come at you with his arrows of discouragement. Because of this, Ephesians 6 is necessary to walk out this new found security. 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
— EPHESIANS 6:10-20

Putting on the armor of God will cloak you in items that will protect you from injury. And not just when you need it, but every day. Verse 11 conveys the point that your armor must be worn at all times, as your daily attire. See to it every morning that you intentionally prepare yourself for a day of battle, because you never know what attacks might take place. You see, the armor doesn’t magically appear when you need it, but rather in a conscious decision made each day through your dedication.

What’s most important as you move forward is the confidence you place in God. There will be times you feel weak or fall into discouragement. When that happens, find shelter in the safety of His wings. There is something powerful in recognizing that yes, you are weak, but our God is stronger than anyone or anything. There is no weapon that can defeat Him. No miracle too big to conquer. No enemy too strong for Him. He has claimed victory on the cross for all time and in each moment of your weakness.

It is absolutely necessary to recognize God as the source of your strength. When you do that, you can tap into his never-ending supply. Allow it to refresh and encourage you. Hold firm to the belief that He is for you. Walk forth in His strength to overcome insecurity.

Insecurity // "You Are Valued"

Today we begin to examine Biblical truths and learn how to get a hold of insecurity. The first step on this path is to believe in your worth and value. Let me help you get started: YOU ARE VALUED! YOU HAVE WORTH! THERE IS NO ONE LIKE YOU!

Insecurity is essentially a lack of confidence in yourself. Why believe that?! Psalm 139:13-15 talks about the great care God took in creating you. Such thought, love, and dedication was taken in the unseen moments God knit you together carefully in your mother’s womb.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Luke 12 describes the interest God takes in the sparrows and lilies, and yet, isn’t His devotion to you greater. Indeed, Scripture is filled with words of God’s love and value for you.

You need to know right now that you are valued. You need to know that God cares more about you than you could ever comprehend. You must understand that His love is deeper, wider, and higher than you could imagine. Collapse into His love for you. Embrace His care. Trust that how He has designed you is wonderful and powerful. You have a purpose and calling very specific to how He wants to use you; that’s a lot of thought and planning set aside specifically for you and you alone.

When you think your gifts are not as important. Rebuke it. When you feel your experience is lacking. Lean into His. When you feel your value is nothing compared to another, trust what His word says about you.

Tell insecurity today that you have value by speaking Psalm 139 over your life. Let the words of Luke 12 drench you in the assurance of His care. Every time an insecure thought pops into your head, push it out with prayer and these Scriptures.

Remember, you are fearfully and wonderfully made!

Insecurity // "I Want What They Have"

The comparison trap--we all get caught in it at some point, if not many. It’s why we say things like “keeping up with the Jones” and see teenage girls binge on fashion magazines and reality shows to make themselves “perfect.” It’s as if we are nurtured by our culture to evaluate others and elevate our lives beyond that.

Wanting what others have is the ultimate thief of joy and will leave you in utter disappointment with your life. Compare yourself to others and you’ll take for granted your own gifts and opportunities. Early on in ministry, as a young twenty-something, I use to get caught up in the promotion of others around me. It caused me to be discontent, jealous, and oblivious to what God was doing in my life. I’m thankful He changed my heart, and can now celebrate in other’s blessings.

Galatians 6:4-5 is a stunning statement to combat comparison, especially in The Message translation.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Scripture instructs us to take inventory, examine, and dive deep into who God has made us as an individual. What talents and gifts do you have, not your co-workers? How can your experience and testimony be used, not your neighbors? God has designed you with a particular story and skillset that He wants to use in a very particular way.

Once you are aware of your dreams and purpose, focus on that. Not on your friends, or the co-worker down the hall. Jump into what God has for you and give it your all! Verse 5 says to, “take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Christine Caine shared a powerful phrase I reflect on in my moments of comparison, “Someone else’s success does not rob you of anything.” If we can remember this, we can remain confident in the calling God has on our own life. You see, God has a special plan just for you! When the time is right (to which you’ll see the time was indeed right), everything will come together as it should because God did it. That way we can boast only in Him and His power, as opposed to thinking it was our will that made it happen.

Lean into Galatians 6 today, trust that the dreams God has placed on your heart are there for a reason and sink your teeth into what is right before you!

Insecurity // "I Care What They Think"

In high school, I use to care so much about what people thought of me that I use to be nervous to walk across the cafeteria because I didn't want people to critique me.

  • Do they like me?
  • How does my outfit look?
  • Was my joke funny?

On and on thoughts played in my head like a dripping faucet that wouldn't allow me any peace. I can relate to Saul's actions in 1 Samuel 15, unfortunately. But thankfully, I can also "not relate" to him because God has helped me over the years to care less about what others think and more about what He thinks.

In this chapter, God orders Saul to battle and defeat the Amalekites. And not just defeat them but annihilate them. At the core of this God wants to remove any trace of the wicked nation. However, "Saul and the army" spare the life of the king and keep the best livestock. The next day Samuel goes to find Saul, who ironically is building an altar to the Lord. Saul thinks he has done well by God. He thinks he has been obedient. However, Samuel confronts him on his obvious disobedience, having failed to do what God instructed. This alone leads to a powerful truth: partial obedience is still disobedience. Saul did not fully carry through on God's command and, therefore, is deemed disobedient.

Now here's where the insecurity plays in: "I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them."

Saul's disobedience can be traced to his desire to please men above God. It provides a powerful example of what the desire for men's approval can lead to. In this passage, we see that caring about what people think, particularly above what God thinks, does lead to sin.

How does one avoid such a trap? Fight the urge to care! It seems so simple, and yet it’s hard to live out, isn’t it?

You have been given a moral compass and as a Christian, you are blessed to have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. Chances are you're pretty set to know when something is wrong or right. When you feel something is wrong, don't do it! Even if people are directing you to the wrong thing. Fight the urge to care about what people think and find security in your Heavenly Father. What He thinks and desires is what really matters.

Insecurity // I'm Not Good Enough

Insecurity was an ugly, unwelcomed companion in my life for many years. In fact, there is one particular phrase that still echoes is my mind like a broken record under the right circumstances. It’s the phrase, “I’m not good enough.” Maybe a similar phrase plays frequently in your mind as well, and it’s so familiar that it feels like an old comrade keeping you company.

Insecurity can manifest in many forms and we'll touch on some of those in this brief series. It’s not all inclusive, but rather an examination of what we find in Scripture and real life as the most common manifestations.

Believing you are not good enough is one and it has a particularly devastating effect--it keeps you from living at your full potential. For example, you give yourself one hundred percent to a passion, only to go overlooked. You want to give up because it seems there is no point. Or perhaps you try to do something romantic for your spouse but it falls flat. You internalize it to mean you’re not loving well.

When we put stock in this phrase and give it validity, we allow pieces of our potential to be chipped away. The truth is, God never wants you to feel inadequate or not good enough. He wants you to be aware of your weakness that you might lean into His strength, but never for a second does He want you to diminish your value.

I get goosebumps when I read The Message translation of 1 Peter 2:9. It describes that we are CHOSEN by God, not for ourselves, but to be an example of His power to take you, “from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” You are SOMETHING. You are ACCEPTED. When you or the enemy begin to whisper attacks about your value, rebuke such words and remind yourself of what 1 Peter 2 says.

Don’t allow insecurity to diminish your potential or steal away your calling. They will if you don’t keep careful guard over your heart and mind. In this plan, we will not only evaluate other manifestations of insecurity, but we will cover our lives with the truth of God’s word. At the end of this series, my prayer is that you will walk forth with the power of Scripture to know you’re valued and have a purpose that insecurity has no part in.

Guest Post - Gabi Kelley

Microcosm Moment - By Gabi Kelley

I have come here to declare the faithfulness of God.

These past few weeks have been crazy as we’ve moved out of our home in Colorado and brought our family to a new home in Texas. I don’t think I’ve ever done something so HUGE, and I’m still in the center of the hugeness of it right now. I see the wind flying around me in circles, but I’m sitting here at a table in Starbucks in the stillness right in the middle of it.

This is where Jesus is.

I don’t mean here at Starbucks (although I’m pretty sure He hangs out at every single one – praise the Name of the Lord:D. I mean here, right here in the stillness and in the middle of the tornado of upheaval caused by a cross-country move. Just like He was there in the middle of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, He’s here in the middle of this chaos I’ve landed in.

And He’s faithful to keep me here in the stillness, despite what winds blow 6 inches in front of me.

What a good God. What a faithful Shepherd. What a beautiful Savior.

Honestly, this was the moment I was dreading. This moment when my husband started going to the office to his dream job and my kids started preschool and I was left adrift, left to fend for myself and to find my own way.

But that’s not how it is. That’s never how it really is, is it? Maybe it feels that way sometimes but never, not once, have I been left to fend for myself. It’s in these moments of seeming aloneness, these hours of unsure footing, that we have a choice. We can either give in to discouragement, feeling as though we are unseen, or we can look up into the eyes of our King, say, “Ok, I’m ready!” and let Him take us on the adventure of the unknown.

Why oh why would I choose discouragement? No, I will not accept it. I drop it by the side of the road, I pick up my suitcase full of hope instead, and I go on this adventure with my Jesus. He has never let me down and He has never left me alone.

This moment in this season is like a microcosm of this life I have chosen to live. In this life, I have known with surety what He has planted in my heart. I have clung to the dreams and the promises of God with everything in me. I have waited…and waited…and waited…and cried, and fought, and prayed, and bowed down with whispers of “When, God, when?” but I have never let go of the promises. I can’t. I mean, how could I? When the God of the Universe bends low to whisper a secret into your life, you can’t just let it go, can you? I mean, I guess you could, but that would be an utter denial of the life change caused by the whisper, even if the change is only visible on the inside. For me, to let it go would be like losing a limb. So instead, I hold tight through it all; all the joys, trials, pains, hopes, betrayals, struggles, victories, discipline, and questioning.

This move to Texas is technically due to Benj’s new job. And I’m so happy for him – so happy. But in my heart, from the very moment I knew we would be moving (and I knew before anyone else…remember those God-whispers I was talking about?), I knew so much of this was going to lead to the fruition of 20+ years of prayers and dreams, the things planted inside me as a small girl. I know a little about how it’s actually going to look – but only a little. The rest is just expectation and belief lighting up like fireworks inside my soul. I know it’s coming…and I know it’s going to be beyond what I could even ask or imagine. But right now, right in this moment, the circumstances are tempting me to feel alone, forgotten, and overlooked.

But really, honestly, I know that’s just smoke. I know these are just shadows. Because I know the reality: My God SEES ME. My God KNOWS ME. My God REMEMBERS me every single moment. My God is the Dream Giver and the Dream Fulfiller. And He is holding my hand and telling me to keep holding tight because soon, so so soon, we will be running.

Like I said, it’s a microcosm of my life; this little moment in the middle of the tornado. I’ve learned how to wait and wait well, to wait actively, with faith as my guide and hope as my anchor. I understand that what I learn in between seasons and in the middle of unforeseen moments are the exact tools that I need for the next season and the next moment. Nothing is meaningless when I walk with Christ. So I know, I KNOW, that this time of waiting is just a chance to breathe before I’m swept up completely in the dreams of God’s heart, in the story that He’s written over my life, the story of rescue and compassion and mission and hands reached out and heart broken open for the world.

And so I rejoice. I choose joy. I tear off the heaviness and the gray and fight to the light and the color.

Here I am, God. Let’s do this. I am so so excited.

Gabi Kelley

Jesus Lover, wife, mommy of two, writer, God-dreamer, and adventurer. Host of Monday Morning Espresso podcast and gatherer of those who dream at GabiRuth.com.

* Microcosm Moment was originally published at gabiruth.com.

He is Risen, A Special Easter Message

The two women didn't expect to find the stone pulled away, two angels before them, and certainly not the resurrected Jesus on this very early morning. No; they expected to find the body of a man they loved very deeply lying in a tomb. But now Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James, were amazed at what they saw before them. The tomb stone was rolled away by one heavenly angel while another was in the tomb.

The two women hurried into the tomb looking for Jesus, but all they found were the outer garments he had been buried in. This, a symbol that Jesus had left his earthly boundaries behind and was now risen [as he proclaimed he would]. The angel proceeds to speak some of the most powerful words ever uttered,

He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.

Jesus, the man they knew as the Son of God now gone from his grave. A declaration not only to them and the Roman guards that stood by speechless, but to all that he was indeed God, resurrected from death. This...this was the very moment that changed everything for humanity! 

This weekend we celebrate what has become Easter, but more than any Easter basket or Sunday lunch with the family, we highlight this event. Easter weekend is all about him and what he did. Jesus didn't have to wrap himself in flesh and come to Earth, but he did. He didn't have to live in obscurity for 30 years, but he did. He didn't have to carry each of our sins and take our punishment of death at calvary, but he did. Jesus did--for you and for me! He temporarily gave up the beauty of heaven to carry the sins of men from Earth, into death, and free of it all victoriously back into Heaven. Now we get this incredible gift of grace, salvation, and eternal security with the Father if we put our faith in him. There is no greater gift or love you could ever receive than this.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, you don't have to worry about the fate of Christ and carry any mourning. You get to wake up with eager anticipation that Jesus is alive and reigns victoriously, on Earth, in Heaven, and in your life. That is the hope you have and I pray you'll carry it like a flag you wave proudly in the streets of victory.

The Cry of a Heart // Psalm 150

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!

Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
— Psalm 150

This is it--the end of the series on psalms. And of course, we must end it in praise! Throughout this journey, we've explored so many seasons of life and emotions: depression, thanksgiving, betrayal, trials, and praise. No matter where you are in life and what you are going through, there is something in the book of Psalms that will speak to your heart.

Let's end it with praise! And I think this is so important because praise and thanksgiving is so vital to our way of life and everyday walk. If we miss this, we miss the mark big time.

God is worthy of all glory and honor and praise, no matter what you are going through. Take this to heart and make it a priority. Don't let a day go by without doing this with passion and sincerity.

God is an good Father who gives good things, and every good and perfect gift comes from Him.  Even the hard and heavy has value in His plans. He is worthy of praise! Will you give him honor and praise, the One who redeems and satisfies you?

The Cry of a Heart // Psalm 142

With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.

When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.

I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!

Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.
— Psalm 142

Psalm 142 is a prayer of David's while hiding in a cave. David's was physical, but perhaps you've been in a proverbial cave before. Maybe even now. Because we all have our caves in life. That place in the darkness where we fell alone and afraid. David shows us how to respond when we find ourself in such a place.

In my Bible, I wrote out a progression I found in the Psalm a long time ago in my own cave. The progression goes like this:

  1. Prayed
  2. Cried Aloud
  3. Poured Out
  4. Trusted God
  5. Longed for God's Presence
  6. Confessed Need
  7. Asked for Deliverance
  8. Hoped

When in a cave, we often turn to prayer. This is, of course, a great place to turn to. Cry out to God, for He alone has the ability to turn your situation from turning to joy. He can bind up your broken heart! Don't be afraid to pour it all out to Him. God is a safe place--a refuge in time of trouble--that you can trust. Long to be in that safe place with Him--in His presence.

Once there, in that safe place in His sweet presence, confess your need and what you're going through. He's listening. And this is where it's ok to ask for deliverance from your situation. He probably won't create a shortcut or make it all go away, but if you ask Him to show up in your cave, He'll be there. And He will also get you through it. Have hope that He will come through for you!