Crosswalk Article // What is the True Meaning of Christmas

PUBLISHED WORKS (3).jpg

Christmas truly is one of the most wonderful times of the year. For many, there are warm parties, cozy homes, fond traditions to celebrate, and gifts to be shared. It’s a joyous time of celebration. However, sometimes we get lost in the season and forget the reason we celebrate it, to begin with. Among the hustle and bustle, our focus is lost and priorities are misaligned.

Come learn more about the true meaning of Christmas is this article for Crosswalk.com.

Celebrating Advent -Week 2

IMG_3654.PNG

As we dive into week 2 and continue exploring the coming of Christ that was thousands of years ago, of course we must read the tale of his birth! I don't know about you but every time I read the account given in Luke 2, it takes me to what Christmas is really all about. I get all the warm feels and a sense of peace comes over me.

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

’Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’ When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.”

— Luke 2:1-20 (NLT)

For thousands of years mankind waited for the coming of Christ; they longed for their King to arrive and free them from oppression. The Bible is full of Scripture pointing directly to the One who would save mankind from their sins. When Isaiah (Isaiah 9) described His coming, he described His coming as an infant. But this child would grow and establish a Kingdom of righteousness forevermore. When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the moment in history when prophecy was fulfilled. God came to be with us.

But it was so much more than a birth. It was hope. It was cause for celebration. Because when Jesus came, he also left us with the gift of salvation. His birth is significant because of His death. For thirty-three years Jesus lived a life free from sin so that He could be the perfect sacrificial lamb for the atonement of our sins. On Calvary, Christ paid the price and overcame death so that we could have victory over sin and condemnation. So, when that precious baby was born and placed in the manger, it wasn’t just another birth. It was the beginning of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. An act He didn’t have to take part in but He chose to out of love.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

— Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)

We remember the birth of Christ on Christmas because it’s a celebration of when God entered this world. This very act of humility and his choice to die on the cross is cause for bowed knees and lifted hands. I know the busyness of the season can cause time to fly and before we know it, the holiday has passed and we have forgotten to celebrate why we are celebrating it in the first place. But don’t get sidetracked—get perspective. Choose reverence and give honor where honor is due.

Take time this holiday season to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by glorifying the One who gave it all. A child was born in humble circumstances and his sacrificial death reflected the same, however, both were significant for humanity. Without the death of Christ, salvation isn’t possible. So without His birth, neither is it possible. Jesus coming to Earth that night changed everything and it’s a moment we should celebrate with all our hearts.

Certainly, enjoy the parties and food and gifts this season, but don’t forget to point your heart, family, and those around you to Christmas' true meaning: Christ came with a plan for our redemption.

Celebrating Advent - Week 1

Christmas is this wonderful time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It's more than the twinkling lights, beautifully wrapped gifts, and cozy homes filled with parties. It's so much more than what we've made it over the years. At the heart of Christmas is the celebration of Christ's coming to Earth more than 2,000 years ago.

Advent is a time when this focus is placed back at the center of the season. The word, in fact, means "coming." It's the celebration of the coming of Christ centuries ago and the anticipation of the coming of Christ yet to be. It's valuable to prepare our hearts and keep Christ first at all times, but especially now when it can be overshadowed by festivities and gifts.

Advent takes place the 4 Sundays leading to Christmas with the first 2 Sundays focusing on his arrival already made and the last 2 Sundays focusing on his arrival to come. There are numerous ways to celebrate this holiday and you can read more here if you’re interested. All to say, I can't think of a better way to embrace Christmas and prepare our hearts to glorify Jesus before anything else than taking this Advent journey together. With that said, let's dive into week 1!

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
— Isaiah 9:6-7

In this passage, Isaiah gives a prophecy of the Savior who would come and reign on this earth. We get such a beautiful and powerful glimpse into this coming and it was with eager expectation people looked forward to this moment. It was an event they longed for.

In this short passage, many things about the Messiah are described.

  1. A child would be born. The Messiah would be born to the people of Israel. A son made flesh. (Isaiah 7:14, a child would be born of a virgin and he would be named Immanuel, "God with us.").

  2. The government would rest on his shoulders. He would rule over Israel and the world for all time. His authority would be established above all.

  3. He would be to his people:

    1. A Wonderful Counselor - Intimately aware of the workings of God and every man's heart. He is the wisdom of God and speaks to mankind.

    2. A Mighty God - Not only would he be a man but he would be fully God, mighty to save.

    3. An Everlasting Father - He is the author of life and designer of the universe.

    4. The Prince of Peace - He established peace both on the earth and in our hearts.

  4. He would reign on the throne of David. Established from the line of David, once a king and a prophecy of his human lineage. 

  5. He would have the zeal of the Lord Almighty. The zeal of the Lord overcomes all things and all things depend on God.

There was a time when people heard this prophecy and held it dear to them, hoping and praying it would come soon. We get to experience this fulfillment on the other side and that's what Christmas is about--celebrating the coming that already took place. Celebrating the moment Christ entered the world to save humanity.

Are you ready to prepare your heart? Ready to celebrate Jesus!

This week, reflect on this passage and sit in Christ's love for you. He didn't have to come to Earth and wrap himself in flesh but out of incredible love, he chose to do so. He loves you and honestly would have done it all if just for you. Carry this with you this week and appreciate who he is and what he came to do.

A Special Thanksgiving Message

THANKSGIVING HEADER.jpg

We find ourselves in a special season that singularly focuses on the act of giving thanks. People hang banners across their mantles proclaiming “give thanks” and others share on Facebook something they are grateful for each day in November

But Thanksgiving is more than a day or a month. Thanksgiving is something we are called to do every day. In the good and the bad, in the ups and downs, our natural response must be gratitude.

Good thing we have some great examples in the Bible! Many men and women we consider pillars of the faith represented an attitude of thanksgiving so well. In fact, there are so many that it was hard to narrow down the list. But today we take a look at people who uniquely gave thanks with all their heart.

1.    Hannah

Hannah is one of my favorite people in the Bible and someone I’ve learned a lot from. There honestly isn’t a lot of information about her but her mark in the Bible is significant.

Hannah was one of two wives to a man named Elkanah; Hannah was barren but the other wife had many children. The other wife, Peninnah, would taunt her regularly and Hannah’s misery was indeed immense. One night, while in the temple, Hannah prayed fervently for a child, so much so that the priest Eli thought she was drunk.

Hannah prayed that if God would give her a child, she would give that child back to Him. Eli blessed her request and soon after she conceived a boy named Samuel, who would become the great prophet of Israel (and my favorite person in the Bible!).

What’s beautiful about this story is that she did indeed give her son back to the Lord--she gave Samuel to Eli. Hannah’s praise wasn’t just the reflection of an answer to prayer, but it proceeded giving up her son. With all her heart she praised God in the aftermath of turning over her biggest prayer request.

Does your praise and thanksgiving overflow from the good you’ve had to let go? When perhaps your sacrifice was difficult.

2.    David

David danced before the Lord in the streets as a response of praise to his holy God. He worshiped after the death of his son. David is a man known for praise. Even in the darkest seasons of his life--as we see in the psalms--he pointed back to the goodness of God.

No matter what season David found himself in, he always had the perspective of praise. We can learn a thing or two from that kind of attitude. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy but he knew thanksgiving was always necessary.

3.    Mary, Mother of Jesus

Finding out she was pregnant with the Savior of the world wasn’t the easiest news to swallow and the aftermath took some faith. But Mary, the young girl chosen to carry the baby Jesus, would exemplify great praise.

While visiting with Elizabeth, who was carrying John the Baptist at the same time Mary was pregnant with Jesus, the young girl had a moment of exclamation. It’s called the Magnificat and it’s found in Luke 1.

Mary’s heart was full of praise and it outpoured into the world. A young girl filled with immense thanks knew exactly where her praise was to be directed. Do you know where to direct your praise today? What are you carrying that at first might have seemed a bit fearful but you can now be thankful for?

4.    The Healed Leper

When Jesus entered a village (Luke 17) there were ten lepers that called out to him for healing. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest and as they did, all ten were healed.

Only one returned to Jesus to thank him. Only one! That man threw himself at the feet of Jesus and gave immense thanks. It’s both amazing to think and sad that only one man returned to give thanks for healing from a debilitating disease. When nine vanished into the crowd one gave thanks where thanks was due.

Don’t be like one of the nine that was blessed and moved on. Stop and give incredible thanks for all God has and is doing in your life!

5.    Jesus

He was God and didn’t have to give thanks for anything, but he often did. Jesus set a remarkable example for us in many ways but one was in thanksgiving. He was a man who gave praise to the Father in so many ways.

  • He gave thanks as he was surrounded by thousands of hungry people and multiplied the food.

  • He gave thanks to God for hearing his prayer for the raising of Lazarus--before Lazarus rose from the grave.

  • He knew the cross was before him and gave thanks to the Father as he broke bread and drank the cup with the disciples.

We have a perfect example of righteous living from Jesus and one thing he shows us is the position of praise and thanksgiving. What I find interesting is that all three of these instances were instances we might find tense. The pressure to feed thousands, raise a friend from the grave, and face death on a cross would be intense for any of us. Jesus’ response was never to panic or run to people, but to turn to the Father.

How can you find that position of praise in your life today? What might you do to cultivate a natural response of thanksgiving? Not just this month, but at all times.


This article was originally written for Crosswalk and can be found here.

NEW YouVersion Reading Plan

Miscarriage Large.jpg

Experiencing a miscarriage is one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching losses a woman can go through. It’s often accompanied by anger, doubt, grief, loneliness, and shame, just to name a few. This plan will help bring healing to your weary soul and guidance to the thoughts of doubt, showing you how to find hope and God in your loss.

Read Brittany’s newest YouVersion reading plan by searching “Finding God in Your Miscarriage” on the Bible App or by clicking the the button below!

Sex & Grace // Grace Covers What Sex Exposes

SEX.jpg

Grace: it’s everything we need and embodies what we could never give ourselves. And thank goodness because we all have our hiccups and failures.

Sex is a beautiful gift when enjoyed in the way it was designed but as we’ve learned, it’s so often misused. When that happens and you feel utterly forsaken, it’s not the end. You may feel ashamed for the choice you’ve made but friend, please know there’s hope for restoration.

Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
— Hebrews 4:16

When you need it most God extends a gift that is better than anything else in this world. His grace abounds just when you thought all hope was lost. I know from personal experience. After I had sex outside of God’s design, I felt so ashamed. I thought there was no hope in my rock bottom. I felt like God would never want to give me another chance.

But once I got outside of my emotions (which the enemy fought to keep me in) and I stepped into the truth of who God is and what He desires for me, I found grace abounding more than ever before.

Grace isn’t an excuse to sin but it is God’s gift to a truly repentant heart. If you’ve failed and feel sorrowful, repent and embrace His grace. God doesn’t desire for you to wallow in your sin—that’s the enemy’s desire. Your Father longs to draw you close and speak tenderly to your guilt-ridden heart. To show you the grace Jesus extends to those who would call upon His name.

There’s an important note however in Scripture: go and sin no more. (John 8:11)

Repent and receive His amazing grace! But then go and live fully in Him!

Sex & Grace // The Dirty Truth About Sex

I’m pulling back the curtain today on some topics often considered taboo in the Christin world. However, they are struggles plaguing our culture today, even in the church. Porn, masturbation, and sex outside of marriage play filthy roles in bedrooms around the world.

I would know—I was addicted to sex for many years. And not only did I cross the line in one area, but all three. I don’t say it with any sort of pride, either, because my heart mourns how lost and confused that younger Brittany was. But I say it to carry some weight with you—I know the struggle.

Sexual desire is God-given but when directed towards lust, isolation, separation, and ultimately, sin, it leaves its victims broken and empty. These manifestations are only a few of many but they are perhaps the most common, and something must be done. For the sake of our culture, marriages, children, and mostly, our relationships with God.

Let’s take a look at these three misdirected manifestations of sexual desire.

1. Sex outside of marriage.

In the original creation, God made male and female to be together. Because of this, a man leaves father and mother, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman—no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.
— Mark 10:9-10

I had sex outside of marriage with my boyfriend while in ministry and the cost was incredibly high. And why? Because sexual immorality eats away at a flourishing life and destroys. It also drives wedges in relationships and shatters marriages, leaving a tornado of wreckage in its path.

Marriage was created to be enjoyed by a husband and wife—that’s it. When you choose to forgo this plan and have sex with anyone but your spouse, it’s outside the design. It’s outside of the covering. In this place, a piece of your heart is chipped. Your relationship takes a hit. And likely, more than one person is hurt.

God never meant for you to have sex with more than one person. He wanted you to spend a lifetime enjoying it with one other human—your spouse. A beautiful and intimate act that would only get better with time as you grow in your love, appreciation, and understanding of each other. Don’t give away the chance to experience this kind of beauty.

2. Pornography

But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
— Matthew 5:29

Porn is one of the most destructive acts of perversion. It exploits, feeds addiction, creates unrealistic expectations, and damages relationships. Some think that porn only effects them, but it touches so many more. A spouse, children, and strangers that God still sees as His creation. It never just touches you.

If your’e married, your spouses heart will likely grieve and hurt as a result of your lust. You might distance yourself from them because you’re being fed by an image. Your expectations of how your spouse should look or act is too high based on the image of another. Love has a hard time flourishing when an outside force has only one goal—to drive a wedge in your marriage.

If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance your child may adopt this same habit. Most people I know who’ve struggled with porn had their first experience when they found some sort of form of it in their home, as a result of the parents addiction. I did. Bringing porn into your home opens a door for your child’s innocent eyes to encounter a temptation they are ill-equipped to fight. Please, as a child whose has been there, don’t give the enemy a foothold in your home and with your children.

Finally, remember that every man or woman you see in a pornographic image is still a child of God. God sees them and He loves them.

Porn destroys, no doubt. It will destroy your heart, mind, marriage, and sexual intimacy. But it destroys people and culture, as well. Here are just a few stats that are mnid blowing (because there are a TON).

  • Porn sites receive more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon, & Twitter combined each month. (HuffPost)

  • Recorded child sexual exploitation (known as “child porn”) is one of the fastest-growing online businesses. (IWF)

  • 64% of young people, ages 13–24, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often. (NCOSE)

  • A study of 14- to 19-year-olds found that females who consumed pornographic videos were at a significantly greater likelihood of being victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault. (NCOSE)

  • A Swedish study of 18-year-old males found that frequent users of pornography were significantly more likely to have sold and bought sex than other boys of the same age. (NCOSE)

Individuals who never view sexually explicit material report higher relationship quality and lower rates of infidelity than those who do. Now doesn’t that sound more exciting than an image that will only leave you empty?

3. Masturbation

There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.
— 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This one is a little less clear cut in that there is no specific Bible verse about whether it is right or wrong. So, how do we know if it’s a sin or not? Here are a few guidelines to help.

  • Is it honorable use of your body? Remember, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The passage above says it all.

  • Lust is a sin and it’s hard to build a case the masturbation doesn’t involve some sort of lust. Most people find that images accompany the act and even one image is considered outside God’s design. So, if pleasuring yourself involves an image, then yes, it’s a sin.

  • If masturbating is something you cannot stop, you’re likely addicted. You’ve become enslaved to it. If this is the case, then it’s a sin. Anything that is an addiction, whether it’s food, shopping, or social media, becomes harmful.

  • Another question to ask is, what is your motive? If it’s to escape, then your channeling your need for peace in the wrong direction. Instead of going to the Father, you’re turning to yourself. If it’s to find pleasure because your marriage is struggling, then it’s fueling the intimacy gap in your relationship. I’m honestly not sure I can find a reason for it that is beneficial…can you?

I’m hard pressed to find a situation where masturbation is good or even free from sexual immorality. Besides, and I know this will sound ultra-christiany, but why do something that causes even the slightest doubt in your mind?

If you struggle with any of these forms of bondage, find help. I struggled alone and in silence for many years because I was ashamed. Please don’t live in isolation; reach out to a friend, pastor or Christian counselor. And please know, there is grace on the other side of your failure. Come back next week to read about grace in the aftermath of sin. It will be brimming with hope!

** Here are some additional verses on the subject **

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
— Ephesians 5:3
You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial.
— 1 Corinthians 10:23
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.
— 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

Finding God in Your Miscarriage

pic.jpg

These words are the most vulnerable I’ve ever penned; I’m going where I’ve never gone before. I share with you from a place of loss and heartache, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. And the reason I share this deeply personal experience with you is that I’ve watched God use words through me that were most powerful when shared from the battlefield. The most tender words of encouragement have always come from a place of my greatest struggles.

Today, I share about miscarriage; a loss experienced by so many. This past week—in the middle of Baby Loss Awareness Month—I lost my precious baby. A life I had the honor and joy to carry within me for nine wonderful weeks before he or she passed on to be with the Father. And while I know my baby is gone from that little raspberry sized fetus, he or she still sits in my womb, waiting to pass from my body. So what was once life is now death within me; I mourn with a depth of grief I’ve never known. I cling to the little one inside of me and dread the day (in the near future) he or she passes and I scoop the little body up for burial. I don’t want to let go of my baby. However, although always within my heart, I’ll have to let go and leave a piece of me with that little one. Forever a fraction of my heart no longer there until we meet in Heaven.

I really struggled to share this for so many reasons: I felt shame, I didn’t want people to feel bad for me, and I wondered what others would think for being so vulnerable about a loss. But writing has always been the best form of process for me and I know—I just know—God wants to use this to help other mama’s out there experiencing loss not feel so alone. Because you do feel so alone.

Honestly, I was so shocked to find out we had lost our second child. With Roman, I constantly feared miscarriage but he was always so healthy and the pregnancy complication free that with this pregnancy, I had no worries. My body had done it before and why not again? However, my body did fail me.

He or she was coming unexpectedly during one of the hardest seasons for my husband and me, and it was such a blessing of hope in discouraging times. Two days ago, I went into a hospital room for a dating ultrasound and sat in silence while the tech took measurements. She said nothing and then shut off the machine and told me I was good to go. This couldn’t be it, I thought! So, I asked how far along my baby was and she said I measured at 8 weeks and 6 days. Then, the next day, I received that dreaded phone call from my midwife that there was no heartbeat. I was in the car, on my way to work, and I let out a sob never uttered before. And now I grieve, knowing there is still waiting until this little one passes from my body. I know I’ll never quite be the same because I still love him or her; my baby is wanted and loved.

As I sat on the couch after hearing the news, I spent a lot of time grieving and talking to my belly. Sure, I knew he or she couldn’t hear me but I just had to speak words of endearment over my little love. I had to tell my baby all the things I would ever want to say to a child of mine.

Then, anger set in. Doubt in His goodness came crashing in like a tidal wave. How could this happen? As if this season wasn’t already the hardest season I’ve ever been through—when I thought it couldn’t get worse—I lost a child. Why?

I yelled, I questioned, I called into doubt His goodness. I struggled to see how this could be good. I began thinking about the announcement photo session we had planned; the list of baby items I’d already started compiling; the maternity bin I had pulled out; the preganancy journey I had just received in the mail and was eager to fill out; they were now empty memories of hope deferred. Scripture says hope deferred makes the heart  sick, and I feel grievously sick.

If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, you likely know how I feel and have asked the same questions. Had the same doubts. Questioned how to find God’s goodness in the darkness. Here’s what I can find in Scripture and what’s helped encourage me these last few days.

1. God is still good.

A dear friend of mine told me yesterday, as I shared my grief with her, that God doesn’t speak in negative terms. That all the hardship I’m going through, and the loss of this baby, isn’t His will or doing. It’s the consequence of sin and works of the enemy, but it’s not God pulling these strings of destruction. But He is there, in the good. He is watching, moving, and waiting with arms wide open, ready to comfort. Although in dark times we often want to pull away from Him, it’s in these trying times we must press in even harder. Pressing in is where we find Him and hear His voice. His goodness. Because God is good and does work all things for good, even if we can’t see it.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good
— Romans 8:26-28

Mama, believe me, I know it’s hard to see how good can come from your loss. Who knows why your baby passed on but God? Perhaps there was something wrong; some part of the body didn’t form correctly. Whatever the case may be, you still get to be the mom to that beautiful child. And there is good to be found somewhere—your child’s life brought joy to this world.

2. Jesus mourns with you—you are not alone.

The first verse I thought of as I mourned was John 11:35,

Jesus wept.

All my mind could recall in the grief is that he wept. That he weeps with me. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible but within its two words are some of the most compassionate you’ll read in Scripture. Jesus knew Lazarus was gone but he also knew his dear friend was about to be brought back to life. So why weep?

Perhaps it was the grief he saw those he loved experiencing. Many mourned the loss of Lazarus and Jesus knew the depths of those wells of grief many were experiencing. He felt the loss that those around him were feeling—he was feeling all the pain. He himself loved Lazarus and although life was ahead, the cost of death was still very real. Which brings the second thought as to why he may have been weeping—the cost of sin. Sin brings death and almost everyone Jesus loves had or would experience death.

In our grief, we are not alone. In our mourning, we share in it with another. Jesus wept for Lazarus but he also weeps along with us in our grief. He mourns with those who mourn because although he knows hope is ahead and death has been conquered, grief is still part of our journey on earth. That death is real, even if temporary. And that in that journey we go through depths of anguish and loss that rip at the soul. But he feels it too. Every ounce of pain is taken in and felt by him.

3. Ask the right question.

We want to ask, “Why God” in the hardship. We want to question Him and His goodness. But this is the wrong question—the one that leads us astray. Instead, the question to ask is:

God, what can I learn about you, about myself, and about life as a result of this season?

There is so much treasure to be found in our trials and tribulations. It’s the storms that forge a more authentic and mature version of ourselves, and where we find God most intimately. Instead of pulling away and doubting, press in and ask the hard question. Uncover the value that can only be found right here, right now. What can you learn about His character? What can you learn about yourself? And what nugget of wisdom regarding a flourishing life can be found in this loss? Don’t waste your anguish—use it to forge a closer relationship with God, a better you, and a more fruitful life.

4. There is hope in the darkness.

The only real comfort I have found in this grief is knowing that my baby is with Jesus. That he or she will never have to know loss, pain, cold, grief, disappointment, or sorrow. That all their soul will ever know is joy and the presence of God. And although I won’t be able to embrace this beautiful soul now, one day I will. Our meeting is only delayed; not robbed.

If you have experienced the loss of a child, dear friend, let me say I’m so sorry. I know how it feels to lose a part of yourself with that precious one. How grief penetrates within your soul to a depth never reached before. How you feel you might never be the same. How you’ve questioned and doubted.

Please know, although the darkness is overwhelming, there is light. There are goodness and hope to be found. There is a beautiful and loving God Who wants to scoop you up into His strong arms and hold you close.

New CBN Article // Sins You Say You Will Never Do - A Dangerous List

PUBLISHED WORKS (2).jpg

What I found on the other end of my sin and healing was an untouchable mentality, and I feared I wasn’t the only one. If you are honest with yourself in this moment, you will realize you too have a list of sins you say you will never do.

To read more about shattering the untouchable myth, read this article I wrote for The Christian Broadcasting Network and then go grab your copy of Untouchable: Unraveling the Myth That You’re Too Faithful to Fall.

Sex & Grace // The Perversion of a Gift

SEX.jpg

Sex. It's a beautiful gift but perhaps the most misunderstood and misused gift of all. Mankind has taken something that is beautiful and intimate and turned into an act of glorified perversion.

Unfortunately, I know a thing or two about the misuse of sex. In fact, I was addicted to it for many years. I wrote a book about what I learned on the heels of its messy entanglement but I merely breeched the subject. I didn't dive into the real struggles I faced for years to overcome its bondage and find freedom from the shame that accompanied it. I wasn’t even a believer for much of those years and even then I knew it was wrong. Deep down I knew sex what something sacred.

Sex was designed by God to be a gift a man and wife would share with each other within the bonds of marriage. That’s it. Two people enjoying one another for a lifetime. And yet it has been taken advantage of for centuries and misused in countless ways.

Pornography. Masturbation. Sex outside of marriage. With multiples partners. We see it everywhere, too. And every form is accepted now. I’m fact, our society parades around the freedom one can find in sex. How it’s a tool to express one’s identity. But we’ve missed the mark and made a mess of it.  My heart breaks at the way we’ve taken this gift and used it to satisfy our own desires in damaging ways. 

In this raw and transparent series, I’m going to dive into the ways mankind has perverted sex and share how it hurts you and others. And then we’ll dive into God’s original design for it, how to find redemption in the aftermath, and much more. 

Come back next week as we explore the dangers of porn, masturbation, and other manifestations of sex outside of God’s design. And boy, is it dangerous. For men and women. For the user and those around him or her. I would know; it was my bondage for many years. Until then, know that sex is good and beautiful and fun but when used as God designed it to be. 

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
— Genesis 2:24

NEW Propel Women Article // Embracing Instruction

PUBLISHED WORKS (1).jpg

How does your spirit respond when a mentor or trusted advisor offers you constructive criticism? Does it rile you up and make you defensive? Or have you cultivated a teachable spirit? Instruction can be hard to hear, but it can also be a beautiful conduit for God to mold and prune you. In this new article with Propel Women, I offer three tips for embracing instruction so that God can grow the breadth of your influence.

Why Does Suffering Exist? // How to Respond to Suffering

Why Suffering_.jpg

David lived a life most envied. He was successful in battle and considered a hero in Israel. He was the king and had abundant power and wealth. He had a large family, along with the favor of God on all he did.

However, David hit a rough patch (as we all do) and in Psalm 43, he is struggling to trust God in his suffering. It’s ok to wrestle with God in the midst of your pain; He wants you to be honest and real with Him. However, a time comes to get a hold of yourself and choose faith. That’s what David is doing here.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!

David is examining his feelings and the confusion he is experiencing in this current season of suffering. Although David’s name is not mentioned it is commonly believed that it is indeed David penning these words, perhaps during the time his son Absalom rebelled against him to take the throne and David had to flee. Surely having been betrayed by his son, living in exile, and feeling as though God’s hand had left him caused great distress for David.

What David realizes in suffering is that it’s not healthy to live there or sulk in the sorrow. Instead, he chooses to get a hold of himself by reminding himself that God is good and worthy to be praised. Which leads to another way out of suffering: praise.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 challenges us to give thanks in ALL circumstances, even in the trials. it doesn’t mean when you feel like it or when everything is going how you’d prefer. It means to praise God for His goodness and faithfulness when it’s hard to muster praise and life seems hard.

How do you respond to suffering? Get a hold of yourself and start thanking God for being steadfast in grace and love. Tell yourself that you won’t wallow in the pity and sadness but rather pull yourself out of the pit to find hope.

God is good all the time, meaning that when things appear to go south for you or in this world, it’s not His desire but it is His ability to turn it around for good. Look for God’s goodness in the world’s darkness.


Focus on the Family // What Every Young Leader Should Know

PUBLISHED WORKS.jpg

Have the honor of sharing transparently with young leaders in ministry traps to avoid and 3 thoughts to consider with Focus on the Family Church Resources. If you're a twenty or thirty something in ministry, this is a must read!

Why Does Suffering Exist? // Suffering Fuels Your Ministry

Why Suffering_.jpg

As we’ve touched on over the last few weeks, God has a way of using your suffering for good. Genesis 50 declares, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

God can turn any situation into a purpose that builds His kingdom! Someone may intend to hurt a people group, or oppress others, or wage war against a country and we personally ask how God could allow such suffering to happen. However, even though a person may want to cause harm towards another, God will use it for good. In this verse, in particular, God uses that person's hurt to save others.

A large part of what I use in my ministry is my own testimony of how God moved in my life. Although the enemy intended to use my suffering to stop my purpose, God has instead used it to reach others. The same can be true for you!

Perhaps your own experience with a stronghold will be used to birth a ministry to help others working through the same issue. Or maybe God will use your testimony to reach an unbeliever going through similar circumstances, and because they see how God restored you, they will want the same. I don’t know how God will use your suffering, but He will. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 reminds us of this truth; that God comforts us so that we might comfort others.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

How can you take the trials of your life and use them for Kingdom purpose? Who can you minister to from a place of experience? Maybe you’re in the middle of suffering as you read this and hope one day to use it for this very purpose. Don’t wait! Let your faith in God in a season of suffering radiate to others the goodness of the Father!

Why Does Suffering Exist? // Suffering Produces Fruit

Why Suffering_.jpg

It can be so hard to wait, am I right? We love our quick-fixes, fast food conveniences, and get-rich-quick schemes. And it seems the hardest time to be patient is in times of suffering. Everything cries out within us to bypass, rush through, or skip the season altogether.

If you are longing to grow in your faith and become more mature as a believer, there is something you need to understand and embrace: God does His greatest work in times of suffering. So as much as your flesh wants to avoid it, instead, embrace it.

Long-suffering, which is showing patience in suffering, produces a great amount of good fruit. To name a few:

  1. Endurance (Romans 5:3-4) - When you learn to be patient in suffering, you produce a valuable fruit that will be a friend in times of trouble. Having the ability to persevere in the face of adversity will carry you through to finish strong. Not only that, but endurance produces character, which leads to much more fruit as Romans 5 describes.

  2. Strength (1 Peter 5:10) - 1 Peter makes it clear that we will suffer, however, that even though we may suffer a bit God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. If your suffering molds you to be a person that is secure, strong, and steady, then that’s a season worth embracing.

  3. Eternal Glory (2 Corinthians 4:17) - Suffering prepares us for eternity.  In suffering, we often learn where our faith should be placed: God or this world. When we learn in our suffering to place our faith in Christ, there is a shift in perspective that has eternal value.

Although suffering may seem unfair at times, on a personal level suffering has the ability to produce so much good if allowed. On a broader level, God uses the suffering in this world to bring about some good. Although it was not His original design, He uses the pains that rattle our world in ways we may not see it. To try to grasp or comprehend the reasons and validity of everything that happens is an exhaustive endeavor that will leave you discouraged and lacking in faith. Instead, hope for the fruit born out of suffering.

Why Does Suffering Exist? // Suffering Strips the Flesh

Why Suffering_.jpg

Trials have a way of molding us into different people. When I went through an intense season of long-suffering (about 3 years long!) in my twenties I came out a different person. I felt as if my pride, lack of understanding towards others, and selfish desires were constantly chiseled at in very painful ways. My flesh was being stripped and my spirit was being forged in the fire.

When Christ came to Earth he suffered to the greatest extent any human had or would in history. He wrapped himself in flesh and inserted himself into the middle of chaos so that death could be conquered. The Son of God faced hatred and persecution not only in his 33 years on this planet but also in his final hours leading to death. Taking on the sins of humanity as his flesh was pierced and he himself mocked.

Jesus suffered great lengths for you and I, out of his immense love and grace. As 1 Peter puts it, he suffered in the flesh so that if we would do the same, sin would cease. When you decide to place faith in Jesus at the middle of your suffering, you have victory over sin. This means that when you suffer, the flesh is starved and its selfish desires chipped away.

I love the way The Message illustrates 1 Peter 4:1,

Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

Our flesh riddles us to seek purpose, healing, and comfort in the world. When you suffer and look for hope in Christ, your flesh is denied and the spirit is fed. Step by step, trial by trial, you learn to desire less of this world and crave more that has eternal value.

Why Does Suffering Exist?

Why Suffering_.jpg

Most of us have asked at one time or another: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

This question has many shapes and maybe you’ve asked it in other forms.

  • “Why is this happening to me God?”
  • “Why did SHE get cancer?”
  • “I did everything right; how could this be?”

It’s one of the most common questions asked not only by believers but by unbelievers.

“If God exists how come there is hunger, disease, and suffering?”

It’s hard to wrap our mind around such questions and provide an adequate answer to others or ourselves. In fact, there will be many times we just won’t know the answer. But to help mitigate and provide some understanding this week, we will examine some common reasons as to why suffering exists.

What you need to know today, however, is one thing that provides a foundation for all the answers to all your questions regarding suffering: God’s original design was good and operated without suffering. It wasn’t until sin entered the equation that suffering did as well. And since God cannot sin, nor does he tempt anyone, suffering is not His original design for your life. In fact, as James declares, every good thing comes from Him.

Suffering is a by-product of the sins of man; every good thing is from God. Although bad things may happen God will find a way to use it for His glory.

We are going to explore over the next few weeks some reasons why God allows suffering for His use, and what our response should be towards it. Today, remember this:

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
— James 1:13-18

Never Alone in the Night

NEVER ALONEIN THE NIGHT (2).jpg

Have you ever felt alone--truly on your own--in the midst of your hard seasons? Perhaps wondered where God was in the hurt and confusion? Me too.

I can't count how many times I've cried out to God in my storm and asked, "Are you even there? Are you listening?"

In my early years, after giving my heart to Jesus, I would get upset at what appeared to me as a lack of involvement. But over the years I've learned that silence doesn't mean absence. With maturity I've come to realize He's always there; somewhere, somehow, working out all the details and doing just what He needs to develop me in that season.

But that doesn't mean sometimes I don't feel alone in the hardship. Even now I'm coming out of a very challenging season and I've felt isolated at times. But then I always remind myself of God's faithfulness in all seasons.

I read this in Acts the other day and it was yet another reminder that God is with us in our nights.

The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.’
— Acts 23:11

When this took place, Paul had already been imprisoned for a while and many Jews were attempting to discredit him and kill him. It wasn't an easy situation at all.

That day, a mob was stirred up and Paul was sent to his barracks for safety. That's how tense the situation was. And in the night, the Lord showed up to strengthen Paul.

I absolutely love the words "stood by him" and the beautiful picture of relationship that it conjures up. God was meeting Paul in the midst of his dire circumstances and encouraging him to take courage--God wasn't done with him yet!

It's a reminder to you, right now, that the Lord is with you in your hardship and will strengthen you to persevere. You are never alone in the night.

In my hard seasons, I'm always encouraged by Hosea 2:

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of [trouble] a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. ‘And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me “My Husband,” and no longer will you call me “My Baal.”‘

If you are going through something hard right now--through a dark and seemingly endless storm--know that God sees you and is with you. In fact, it's in the darkest nights of the soul that the sweetest intimacy with Jesus can be found. When we run to him and collapse into his loving arms, hope and rest is found. Relationship is strengthened. There's nothing like a good storm to pull out the ugly within us and mold us into a transformed person.

And remember--that every valley of trouble has a door of hope. Seek Him, lean into Him, allow Him to care for you, and allow your season of trouble be used to inspire hope in others.

Paul was strengthened in the night when the Lord stood by Him and God did indeed take Paul onward for the sake of the Gospel!

Monday Care for the Mama's Heart // Discovering Your Identity Within Motherhood

DAY AFTER (1).jpg

I was sitting in the rocking chair with him, gently swaying back and forth in the dimly light nursery. It had been a particularly difficult day with my teething and mental leap experiencing little fella. As I leaned into the exhaustion, soothing him to sleep, I started thinking about my identity.

For a long time I had my identity figured out--or at least, somewhat figured out. Trouble was, it was wrapped up in what I did. Pastor, writer, wife, friend, and so on. I guess I thought when I became a mom that mother would be added to that without a hiccup.

But somewhere since becoming a mama and that night, I lost clarity. Before, it was easier to direct my passion to the few things I was really focused on in life and it all balanced pretty well. But when I became a mom, I was more divided in trying to give my all in so many different areas. With my struggle in balancing plates I also struggled to find my identity.

That day, filled with bottle feedings, dirty diapers, and calming my son, I felt lost in it all. Who was I? As I sat there in my son's nursery, I no longer felt sure about the answer to that question.

Do you ever feel that way? Feel lost in all the things you are doing so you wonder who you really are in the midst of all the things? Yeah, me too. I was, at that time, a working mom and had lots of things going on in my life. But none of them seemed enough to solidify my identity anymore. Now that I'm a stay at home mom/writer, it's never been more important to be sure of who I am than now.

Where we get lost in our identity journey is that we often believe that what we do makes us who we are. Although what we do is so very important, it does not define who we are. This is found solely in what God says in His word.

God says that you are His child, chosen and set apart. His word says that you are valuable and called to be a carrier of the light. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
— 1 Peter 2:9
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
— 1 John 3:1a

Open up the Bible and you'll find pages filled with how God sees you. You could google "Bible verses on identity" and get scores of resources that list out what God's Word says about your value and worth and purpose. 

To wrestle with your identity, particularly as a mom, is to chew on what Scripture says about who you are. Remember, it's not in what you do but who you belong to. And you are His! If you can settle into that definition of identity, then you'll find contentment in who you are that transcends labels and roles.

Your identity as a mom looks like this: you are...

  • valuable
  • precious
  • chosen
  • loved
  • a nurterer
  • beautiful
  • full of purpose
  • a witness and carrier of light
  • a disciple
  • His daughter
  • and doing the most important job in the world!

Honestly, the list could go on. What I would encourage you to do is find a verse that particularly speaks to your heart about who you are in Christ and keep it somewhere you will see everyday. Let it be a daily reminder to you that in the midst of all the things you are doing or labels you might carry, you are first and foremost a child of God and what He thinks about you supersedes everything else.

Now, maybe you are looking for things you can put your hands to in addition to being a mom so that you can be using your gifts and passions to help others. Of course that's a wonderful thing! We all have our part to play within the Body and if one part suffers or isn't doing what it's created to do, the whole Body feels it.

If this is you--looking for ways to contribute to the Body--take Galatians 6:4-5 to heart:

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.

Sink yourself into being a mom and a wife. Invest into what you're passionate about. Do your creative best with what you have been entrusted with and share who you are (not what you do) with the world!