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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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!

NEW Crosswalk Article // 9 Interesting Things You Might Not Know About Solomon

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Solomon: the wisest man to ever live, builder of the temple, beautiful poet and national leader--he was a man who seemed to have it all. Yet, at the end of his life, he penned these words in Ecclesiastes 2:11:

“When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

Solomon was a complex man. He had his victories and defeats, just like us. We may have heard stories about this great king, but there are a few things left to uncover. 

In my latest article for Crosswalk I share 9 Interesting Things You Might Not Know about Solomon.

Monday Care for the Mama’s Heart // 10 Things I Learned My First Year of Parenting

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This past weekend my son Roman turned one! One year ago he entered the world and made it a better place with the joy and love he shares each day. One year ago I held him in my arms for the first time and my heart melted—I was smitten. One year ago he made me a mom.

Parenting hasn’t always been what I thought it would be like. It’s been better than I could have ever imagined but it’s also been more challenging in some ways. All in all, though, it’s been one heck of a journey! 

In honor of this one year celebration and reflection, I thought I might share some things I learned over the past twelve months. Maybe you’re expecting and this will give you some insight into what’s to come. Or you’re a new mama needing to know you’re not crazy. Or maybe you’ve been on the journey a few years and have your own insight to offer—please do so in the comments. Remember, we’re all in this together! 

To be honest, I learned many things this year but here are the top ten lessons from my first year of parenting.

  1. There’s no joy comparable. Nothing touches a woman's heart like being a mom. That moment you hold your baby for the first time is an explosion of happiness. But also, each day brings opportunities of joy shots right to the soul. The way they look at you, or snuggle into your arms, or learn something new--it's all full of overwhelming happiness. Being a mom truly is the best gift in the world; a gift that keeps on giving!
  2. It’s ok to ask for help or advice. I think sometimes we feel we need to be a supermom and give the impression to others that we have it all figured out. But no mom does and you shouldn't carry such a heavy weight. Being a mom at all (because all kids are different), but especially a first time mom, brings so many questions with it. Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice. I've turned to Facebook when I was unsure of something and it's been amazing to see the support from other parents out there! Know that you don't have to, and shouldn't have to, go at it alone. We are part of the Body of Christ and the kind of community we have there is a beautiful thing.
  3. Be careful not to parent your spouse. I'm not saying every woman does it, but I imagine it's not unusual. When we're parenting our kid all day it happens that sometimes we transfer that over to our husbands. Or think we know what's best for the kid so we try to tell the dad what to do. This act can be very damaging to your marriage and it's important you steer away from developing this habit. Here is a blog I wrote on the subject for more insight and encouragement.
  4. You will feel failure but that’s normal. Being a mom will likely make you feel like a failure perhaps more than anything else in this world. It's because of the immense amount of love you feel for your child and the desire you have to be a wonderful mom, both of which are noble things. However, it can also lead you to be hard on yourself. Learning to manage these moments of failure will be so valuable to your journey as a mom. Here is a post I wrote on the subject if you'd like more tools on overcoming failure.
  5. A baby is just that...a baby. Sometimes in the frustration or exhaustion we forget that we are dealing with tiny humans who have no other form of expression but crying. There have been times I've wanted to talk sense into my little one but I've had to remind myself that he's just a baby. I can't rationalize with him when he has emotions he can't understand, or when he doesn't feel well, or whatever else may be frustrating him to the point of irritability. Just remember that crying is really the only form of communication they have and try to be patient. Perspective goes a long way!
  6. Celebrate the milestones but enjoy the time it takes to get there. Especially as a first time mom, you are always looking for and anticipating the next stage. "I can't wait til they crawl! And then walk! And then play on their own!" At least for me, I was looking forward to the next milestone out of excitement or next season because the one I was in seemed hard. But what I have found is that now I'm missing those earlier seasons and I wish I wouldn't have rushed through them so quickly. If I could encourage you, I'd say enjoy the season you're in. I've heard that before and shrugged it off but truly, you will miss what is behind. Enjoy where you are at while you can. Besides, the next milestone brings its own challenges ;)
  7.  You’re understanding of the Father deepens. It's incredible how becoming a parent changes your relationship with the Father, in a better way. Being a parent and knowing that kind of love and sacrifice gives you insight into the Father's love and strengthens a bond with Him you didn't have before.
  8. You’re not crazy. I can't tell you how many times I thought I was the only one going through what I was going through. But then I'd be reminded in the middle of the night when I was feeding Roman in the dark that there were other mamas out there doing the same thing. Or I'd share a struggle on social media and moms would say, "Me too!" Just know you're not alone, and know that you are not crazy! We all go through hard and crazy moments as a mom...we're all in this together!
  9. Being a mom makes you a better person. Being a mom sure does have a knack for pulling the selfishness out of you. It's a wonderful at pulling the unlovely out of you! Your flesh will fight the pruning at times but receive it, knowing God is using the challenges of motherhood to make you more like Christ. It's a wonderful school of becoming a better person.
  10. Cherish all the moments. It flies by. Soak up ever single moment!

I hope this helps some other mamas out there. Truly, motherhood is a gift and we can cheer each other on in the journey! If you have something you’d like to add, please do so in the comments! 


P.S. Here are a few pictures from his birthday, in case you're interested!

Untouchable, My New Book, Now Available!

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Did you know that my new book, Untouchable: Unraveling the Myth That You're Too Faithful to Fall, is now available where books are sold?!  It's a book that shares my story of rock bottom ache, sharing what I learned about a myth that can shatter any Christian's life, how to stand against temptation, and what redemption can really look like for those who have failed. It's a book that I truly believe every Christian must read!

Here's a bit more about the book:

Too many Christians, especially those in ministry, believe they are untouchable--that they're too faithful to fall or too spiritual to give in to temptation. They deny any sort of weakness, fail to draw proper boundaries, and end up doing the very things they swore they'd never do.

Pastor and author Brittany Rust was one such person--until she found herself in the middle of moral failure and a church-wide scandal. Bewildered, humiliated, and ashamed, she thought she was beyond redemption. But God's grace met her on the ground, and here she shares what she's learned through her painful journey. She unravels the myth of being untouchable, showing how we start to believe the lie, and how we can protect ourselves from temptation. Ultimately she shows that to truly flourish in life, you must be willing to admit weakness--and that no one is beyond God's redeeming love.

You can learn more about the book using the button below. If you know you already want a copy, you can find links there or head to your favorite book vendor.

Monday Care for the Mama’s Heart // The Gift of Motherhood

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This week my little man turns a whopping one year old! Where does the time go, mamas?! As I’ve been reflecting on this past year, I’m obviously feeling all the feels. 

Even today, it’s been one exciting moment after another. Roman learned to climb on top of a box to reach the tv—little stinker! He ate grapes for the first time, mastered a new toy today, and moved kitchen chairs around like a master puzzle solver in order to get to his ball. I’m just in awe of how quickly they learn and grow.

Just now I finished his bedtime routine and rocked him a bit longer than usual. I didn’t want to put him down in his crib—not with those beautiful blue eyes staring right into mine as he held my hand. All I could do is pray, declare gratitude for being his mom, and cry (of course!).

I’m sure you know all of the above well. The pride and joy of being a mom. The love that just overwhelms you. The desire to gobble up your kid out of sheer cuteness (cute aggression is a real thing, am I right?!)

As wonderful as all of these experiences are, I also know that motherhood isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be downright difficult and defeating at times. 

Which is why I want to remind you today the blessing that motherhood is. The gift you have been given. 

Don’t you see that children are GOD ’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
— Psalm 127:3 (MSG)

You have been chosen by the Most High God to be a mother to the child(ren) you hold in your arms. To love them through their hardships and cheer them on in their wins. To cover their cuts with kisses and bandaids; rock them gently with a lullaby when their sick; to extend patience when they don’t quite understand their own emotions. 

You have been given the GREATEST gift in this world—to be a mom. You have the most important job in the world—there are people who depend on you.

I hope you know, today and every day, how valuable you are.  And my prayer for you is that today you’ll hold your little one a little closer and a little longer. Thank God for choosing you to be their mama and remember there is no one else like you in their world.

 

NEW Crosswalk Article // Power Quotes on Love

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Love is a powerful action. We seek wholeness in the love of God. We pursue it in a lifelong companion. We give it selflessly to our children and withhold it from our enemies. Love is an action we take part in daily.

How can you love well? Fortunately, the Bible is packed with verses about love that applies to all relationships! Below you will find verses, and even some encouraging quotes, about how to give love and receive love. Find truth to pierce your heart and mind, whether it be in loving God, family, your enemy, or yourself, just to name a few.

It is love that changes the world.

Today I'm sharing on Crosswalk power quotes and Bible verses on LOVE.

Monday Care for the Mama's Heart // Resisting the Urge to Parent Your Husband

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It happens so often I can even pick one example to share. One glimpse into my imperfect attempt to be a perfect wife and mom.

Before having a kid, I'll be honest, I didn't understand why it was so common for marriages to become secondary. I was naive about a lot of things before having a child, haha. I just loved my husband so much I couldn't comprehend the difficulty that could come with expanding the family.  Especially since pregnancy brought us closer than we had ever been before.

Bringing a child into the world is one of the most beautiful things and a true gift. But it sure ain't easy to all the things that come afterward for a lifetime.

I make a lot of mistakes as a mom and wife, but one I do real well is parenting my husband. Do you do that, too?! You know, make comments about how you think your husband should do something. Correct how they dress the kiddo or feed the baby. I mean, we all have done this a time or two, am I right? Please say I'm not crazy!

Part of learning to parent and love your spouse well in balance is learning to never parent the spouse. Here are a few ways we could do a little better in this area.

  1. Take a breath and move on. In other words, let it go. Pick your battles. If it's not a game changing decision or throws your household into a chaotic mess, take a moment to realize it's not worth causing disunity for one snide remark. Take a deep breath and move on.
  2. Ask questions instead of assuming. Extend some grace. Maybe your husband has had a rough day and just isn't all there. I mean, I've had mom brain more times than I can count and I really appreciate the understanding. Don't just assume your husband had bad intentions to get back at you or didn't care to give it his best.
  3. Don't assume your way is the only right way. As moms we sometime assume our way is the best way (and only way) to handle a situation because of that motherly instinct and all the research we pour into. But I'll be honest--there were times I wanted to resist the way Ryan wanted to do something and realized he actually had a great idea!

I hope this helps give you a bit of perspective when it comes to being a mom and a wife. I know it's something I certainly need to be reminded of.

Tonight, let your husband know how much you value him as a husband and father. Share with him all the wonderful ways he contributes to the family. And be a little more open-minded about co-parenting with him; showing him respect as a father and resisting the urge to parent him.

Season : Summer

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Awww...summertime. A season when the days are longer and the nights shorter. When life is thriving and people get outside to enjoy the best nature has to offer. It's an abundant and active season--a good season.

Are you in a summertime bliss? All is well and cares are minor. God is blessing you beyond what you can imagine. What a time to celebrate!

Often, in our summers, we may forget to go to Him on a regular basis or begin to rely on ourselves. Our abundance makes us forget our need for the Father.

First and foremost, spend this season of blessing in thanksgiving. Use your voice to give praise to the One who is the provider of all good gifts.

Second, do what Deuteronomy says.

The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.
— Deuteronomy 28:12

Your abundance is a gift to be shared. Your summer is a time to lend to others who may be in need. Invest your time into helping at the local shelter. Help a struggling,hard working family with by paying for their car repairs. Start a Bible study.

Don't use your summer for yourself--spend it by blessing others! Share some of that summertime bliss.

Monday Care for the Mama's Heart // Ain't No Mama Like the One I Got

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When I was pregnant with Roman, I had every intention of breastfeeding; it was something I really wanted to do as a mama. I never imagined what would end up happening after I gave birth to my precious little boy that would throw my plans completely off track.

I gave birth to Roman on a Friday night and that Sunday, I was excited to go home with my little man. When we did finally pull into the garage with our little bundle of joy, I felt sick so Ryan made me lay down for a few hours to get some much-needed rest. After a bit of resistance, I finally caved and took a 3-hour nap.

When I woke up I felt much better and enjoyed a bbq on our back porch with my sweet family. Later that night, Ryan, Roman, and I excitedly (but also nervously) settled into the bedroom for our first night at home.

That's when I took a bad turn. Within a half hour, I went from a slightly icky feeling to an 8 on the pain scale. I was in excruciating pain and knew something was wrong. My husband and I made the call to go to the ER and with tears in my eyes, I said goodbye to my newborn son as he looked up at me with those baby blues.

I ended up spending the next 3 days in ICU for an ovarian blood clot. More than the physical pain, though, was the emotional bottom I hit and shame I experienced. Due to the blood clot and blood thinners I would have to be on for several months, I would not able to breastfeed. This wrecked me with shame and guilt.

One thing I dreaded as a new mom was the question I would inevitably get about breastfeeding. Because the answer was, "No, I wasn't." With each question I felt I needed to defend myself; to explain why I wasn't breastfeeding my son. Mom-shaming was a fear for me and I didn't want to be on the receiving end of any of it. 

It's so sad that mom-shaming is even a thing. Social media certainly makes it worse because a woman can judge other women they don't even know from the non-confrontational safety of their home. Honestly, most moms likely believe they aren't doing anything inherently wrong; they probably rationalize they are just "helping" or "offering advice." How devastating one comment can be for a mom, though.

Mamas, you are responsible for your child; not another's. Obviously, if harm is being done to a child or injustice is being committed, say something! But to judge another mom for not doing something the way you think it should be done is wrong. Nor is it ok to talk about one mom to others--it's gossip. These and all of the above tear down and cause harm.

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
— Matthew 7:1-5

If you're going to have a critical spirit and call others out, you can expect it to come right back to you. Truth is, women don't want to be friends with other women who are critical. This world is already hard on us, and often we are too hard on ourselves as a parent, so the last thing we need is other mamas making it worse. Making us feel devalued.

Words are powerful. YOUR words pack more punch than you can imagine. 

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
— Proverbs 18:21

Your words can either build up or tear down. Your words to a fellow mama can either rip at the heart of a tender-loving mom or encourage a weary mother. Place yourself in the shoes of a recipient. How would it impact your heart to have someone criticize you as a parent? Pretty crappy, right?

In contrast, Proverbs 16:24 illustrates the good that your words can bring.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

God created you (and your mouth) to worship Him and edify others. He didn't create you to gossip, hurt, or lie, so don't act outside of this! Worship him and love others as you were created to do.

Let's be people who uplift, support, and honor people. Furthermore, and above all else, may our words be pleasing to God, whom we worship and adore.

If you are a mama who is hurting after someone shared critical words about you, know that you are more than their words. You are valuable in the eyes of the Father, and you are worth more than anything to your little one(s). Shake off those words and remind yourself of your identity in Christ. In doing so, you also show your children how to do the same and rise above the criticism of others. 

Friend, you are so beautiful and a wonderful mom. Surely in the eyes of your child, ain't no mama like the one they got!

Let's support each other on this motherhood journey. It's not easy, which is why we need each other all the more to be cheerleaders--celebrating the wins and loving one another in the hardship.

How will you encourage another mom today?

Seasons : Spring

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Spring is a season for renewal and regrowth. For birth. It's when things start to come alive and burst forth in glorious display. What was once dead now thrives with life. 

Spring is a time when you once again come alive. When those dead bones dance in freedom and weary soul is refreshed with spring rain. It's a beautiful season of life that holds abundant goodness and blessing.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
— Isaiah 43:18-19

If you're coming out of a barren winter, it's time to step forward and leave that time behind. Instead, look around and see what God is starting to do. He is beginning something new--something different than anything else you've been through before.

God is making a way!

If you've been in a hard season but see hope ahead, step forward. Embrace the new life breaking forth and soak up what God wants to do in your life. This is a great season in life; one to be celebrated. Stop going over the old and instead rejoice in the new!

I know you might be thinking, "Brittany, that's easier said than done." I know, I know! It can be hard to let go of the pain or forget about the hardship. But flourishing in the Spring means leaving the past behind. It means finding a way to heal (check out this reading plan on how to heal). It means living in the freedom God is extending to you. Find your way into the sunlight, my friend.

If you're in this season, be oh so grateful. These seasons are sweet like the budding flowers but won't last forever so cherish the abundance God has you in. Always be sure to give thanks and celebrate what God is doing in your life. Give Him all the glory!

Monday Care for the Mama's Heart // A Poem to a Mother

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A Poem to a Mother

Your head is feeling achy, filled with worries and with stress,
sometimes you question if today you truly gave your best.
It throbs and it runs, it hurts and it pounds,
at times you feel that it never calms down.

But that head that aches, look, it lifts up every day,
it houses sweet memories and has built the right words to say.
It has dreamed big for your family, for those kids you adore,
every day you pick your head up, you’re stronger than the day before.

Look down at those hands, though dried out and tired,
they’re the hands that first held those precious babies at your side.
They’re the hands that have wiped away a countless amount of tears,
they’re hands that can move mountains through every passing year.
They’re hands that have held on tight, guiding children as they grow,
they’re hands that have
released, when it was time for them to go.

Your lips, on some days, may seem to stay in a pout,
questionable are the screams or the words that have come out. 
But those lips are special, they’ve laid out rules, and given advice,
they’ve kissed
boo boos, said “i love yous,” and “you’ll always be my child.”
From your lips came words that your little ones needed to hear,
out came reassurance and comfort when they turned to you with fears.

Your eyes, though tired, and have gone long with little rest,
are the eyes that have watched in vigilance through their lowest and their bests.
Those eyes have cried tears of joy, fear, sorrow, and immense love,
they’re eyes that have closed as you prayed for your children to heaven above.

Your ears are ringing from the whines, shrills, screams, and “mo-mmy!”,
you have covered them up many times, in a desperate plea.
They have even been the recipients of unkind and hurtful words,

criticism, scoffs, and things you wish you never heard.

But your ears, though ringing, have been blessed to hear a child’s first words and shouts,
they’re the ears that have listened intently to worries and to doubts.
They’ve been blessed to hear conversations and laughter in your home.
They’re ears that have heard, “I love you, mom” and they remind
you you’re not alone.

Your feet, at times, seem to drag..slowly here and there,
some days they’re like weights, you feel you’re not getting anywhere.
Those feet ache, and it seems, many miles they have run,
but as you stepped forward each day, do you realize what you’ve done?

You have set an example,
you moved bravely and in faith,
with the
miles your feet have walked,
you’ve shown your children the way.

Your heart is feeling tired, and has many times, broken right in half,
from the “no!”
s andi hate you!”s or the fights you have had. 
It has experienced heartache, and grief, and stress as it pounds,
for when it comes to your children, they’re your heart walking around.

But that heart, oh that heart, it’s such a special one,
It’s a heart that has strength, it’s a heart that has overcome.
It’s the heart that accepted the great role to be a mother
An adventure that involves trials and struggles like no other.

Unknown were the hardships and sweet joys ahead,
but your heart made itself ready for the wonderful road it would tread.
Motherhood called you, and your heart took on the call
so that heart, oh that heart, mother, is the strongest part of all.

So look in the mirror, and then see what’s within,
see the good that you do, and the love that you bring,
Look at your strength and your courage, true beauty is what you should see,
and know that this, wonderful mother, this is where you are meant to be.

By Pamela Macdonald

Seasons : Winter

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Winter is a season of barrenness. It can leave you feeling isolated and in want for comfort. It's this season of life that is the hardest. When discouragement is at its height and comfort seems at its furthest.

Hosea 2 has been a dear companion of mine in my own winters. A valuable source of comfort when I've felt alone, misunderstood, or hurting.

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 Achor 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.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’
— Hoseas 2:14;23 (ESV)

Beginning in verse 14, there is a “wooing” of Israel; God is wanting to bring his children close to Him on a very personal level. Continuing on in the verse, although currently in a Valley of Achor (also known as “Valley of Trouble”), there is a door of hope in the future. Essentially, what this passage is saying is that God wants to bring you close to Him. In your valley of trouble and pain, show you there is hope before you. That the trouble won’t last forever.

Further in verse 16, there is a transition between the levels of relationship. Again noting a more personal level, God wants you to no longer see Him as just a master, but as a “Husband.” This reiterates affection towards His people. We then see a key phrase mentioned three times in two verses, “I will betroth you.” When a phrase or word is mentioned multiple times in a short span, it means it’s very important to understand what’s being said. God wants to make sure we know the importance of His covenant and restoring love.

The chapter ends with a confirmation that He will show love to us, even if we may feel unloved. To the person feeling lonely and forgotten, these words are soothing to the soul.

In your winter, know that you are there for a purpose. God may be bringing you into the wilderness so that you might know Him more intimately and that your relationship would be strengthened. Know, also, that you won't be there forever--there is a door of hope ahead!

Your winter will be challenging but there is so much value in it. So much purpose. Don't give up in your valley of trouble but keep moving forward towards that door of hope and seek an intimacy with God you've never experienced before.

Winter won't last forever. Spring is coming.