A Focus on Friendship

Author: Kimberley Mulder

My “one word” for 2017 is friendship. At the beginning of each year I spend some time listening to God and observing my journey thus far to discern what one word I am to focus my attentions for the upcoming year. It is always something that God is cultivating in my life, maybe pruning, but always bringing greater life.

To begin my year’s focus , I prayed about my friendships, and discovered a deep gratitude that rescues me from the seeping insecurities about them. When I forget to approach these relationships as God’s gifts I mire in doubts that others care for me, that I fail people too often, that people are rejecting me. These are fears founded on my sinful nature, for I do fail friends, but what God, and my lovely friends, are showing me is that they forgive me and love me.

In addition to cementing this foundation of gratitude for the friends I have, God has been showing me his friendship. I have found great delight in reading an account from the gospels as if I were there as His friend. I observe in my mind’s eye what is recorded, and His Spirit fills my imagination with details of the setting, with personalities of the characters, with words and actions that may have occurred. And I interact with Jesus, asking questions, listening, following and watching him. I am sure this imaginative imagery is not an accurate depiction of what occurred in real time 2000 years ago, however, through it Jesus is present to me as a friend!

One word FriendshipNaturally, I have to read a book or two about my “one word” and so I started with one on spiritual friendship – “Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction” by David G. Benner. It is a rich explanation and exploration of soul friendship. These are the friends who nurture your soul and care deeply about your whole self. These are the companions God has given you on your transformational journey with Christ. They are vital gifts from God! The guidance in the book has already blessed my relationships.

Then there is the guidance I am giving my daughter regarding friendships and “friending” online. She is a pre-teen and her world is dictated by peers. We recently walked her through the positives and negatives of using social media, building her foundation to connect and care for her friends. We have given her expectations and guidance to treat everyone as she wishes to be treated even as she encounters peers who aren’t held to these same expectations. We are trying to give her the tools and abilities to build her ship with her friends to sail together through these adolescent years.

Friendship Kim MulThis leads to our family’s newest adventure in friendships. This summer we did not sign up for any camps or classes, we are not taking any trips and our schedule is REALLY empty. (Hear my gulp of faith mixed with fear that God will fill all these days with good things?) Instead, I have been telling every friend and neighbor to come visit us, play with us, eat with us. Come summer break, we will be issuing invitations regularly to hang outs, picnics, trips to the library, you name it. And reiterating to everyone to drop by which is counter-cultural, at least in our neighborhood. This is a giant leap of faith for me – one in which I think we will be learning quickly how to build and maintain our family’s ship of friends!

I urge you to pray over your friendships, to see them through God’s eyes, to find resources that infuse life into your relationships and will help you train your children to model true friendship to a world addicted to “friending”.


Readers, how could you work on a friendship today?

2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and records the reflections and connections Jesus gives her to share with others.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Remembering Carol: A Legacy of Devotion

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”-Hebrews 12:1-2

A dear, dear friend of mine, Carol, joined this great cloud of witnesses on March 19th. Carol was a quadriplegic and our friendship began when she hired me to be her personal caregiver. Over the last 7 years, conversations,visits, and most importantly, our hope and faith in God deepened our connection. At her recent memorial service, I was struck by the legacy she left behind—a legacy of faith, hope, and love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” –1 Corinthians 13:13

Carol’s faith was unshakeable. At the tender age of 18 her life was changed by a devastating spinal cord injury, and though she never married or had children she had many who drew near. She changed lives due to the way she followed Jesus under trying circumstances. She never turned her back on Him.

Before her accident, Carol was quite the athlete. She played both basketball and volleyball in high school and  loved long runs around her home town. For anyone, quadriplegia would have felt like torture, but particularly so for such an active young woman. Many would have lost hope and succumbed to bitterness and resentment, but  Carol spent 41 years in a wheelchair and still shined.

conversations,visits, and most importantly, our hope and faith in God deepened our connection. At her recent memorial service, I was struck by the legacy she left behind—a legacy of faCarol demonstrated a joyful attitude and lived with a fervent hope in Jesus, and she went to him in prayer constantly. She was a cheerful soul who loved the balmy days of summer and cherished spending time in her yard amidst her vibrant flowers. I recall many an afternoon spent on her back patio sharing lives, watching  hummingbirds swarm the feeder, and discussing the things of God. A true prayer warrior, Carol frequently asked me for prayer for herself, dear friends, and family. I asked for prayer as well,  knowing she would be sure to pray for me. 

hummingbird legacyI will especially miss how Carol loved those around her, myself included. She shared the love of Jesus with everyone she came in contact with, especially the many women who became her caregivers over the years. She loved big, and I always left her house feeling the warmth of her love.

At the memorial service, a short video clip was played in which my friend shared her testimony of unending faith and hope in God which had been undeterred by her trying circumstances. It will always be  treasured in my memories. She truly lived her faith out loud, leaving behind a worthwhile and lasting legacy—a life devoted to Christ.


sarah-c-squareReaders, Who has left a lasting imprint of faith and love in your life? Tell us in the comments.

Sarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

The Missionary’s New Song: A Legacy Worth Leaving

Snuggled in my bed, surrounded by the soft comfort of an old down blanket, I stared at my phone watching the playback of a month old live-stream from Inglewood Baptist Church.

My Great Uncle Don Jones and his friend (another retired missionary), in a beautiful crescendo, gloriously sang the words:

 “No more death when we get to heaven. No more death when we get to heaven…Hallelujah, Hallelujah…no more death! No more death, but life forevermore.”

Don Jones quote (1)Earlier that day my Great Uncle stepped into that life forevermore; for him death is no more. He is in the presence of the Savior to which he dedicated his life, and for him there could be no better day. Those of us left behind feel the pain of loss; for him there is no more pain. I am so thankful for the prayers he prayed for me, and the support he gave me in the ministry I have had the privilege of being involved in. My thoughts of him that night were tainted with grief, yet sweet and hopeful for his new home. As my eyes became heavy with slumber, my last thoughts settled on, “What a well lived life.”

He was 88 and was still teaching, singing, and serving others because of the love first given to him by Jesus. Prayers swelled in my heart to my Savior, that I too would live a life with that type of legacy. Loving God and loving people, knowing God and making Him known, a legacy of Philippians 1:21, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”

His wife Nita was likewise filled with bold gentleness, and together they were missionaries in South Korea for 36 years as they raised their two children. I still remember her hugs… for some reason that is my clearest memory of her. It wasn’t really the hug itself but the feeling of deep comfort wrapped within them. She died in 2004, but the love they shared didn’t. You still saw and felt it when he spoke of her.

Legacy Don and NitaI remember sitting with my grandmother and my mother huddled around our giant box of a TV watching the 1988 Seoul Olympics where Don and Nita were serving as translators. Every time their event would come on someone would yell, “Hit the record button!” as we tried to catch a glimpse of our family members on the sides of the diving pools of the world-wide competition. With such a small view of his life and his impact for God’s kingdom, I naively thought this was the coolest thing about my Uncle Don. I shrugged my shoulders at the work he was doing in Korea, that he held a Masters and a PhD, and that he had walked faithfully with Jesus since childhood. The Olympics, that was what impressed 6-year-old me. But what sticks with me now, and will remain until my own walk into eternity, is the race of faith he ran.

I look to them, this generation that went before and I dream for my children and their children. When we lose a family member who reaches the end having truly glorified Christ, we are compelled to ask: “How did they get there, and how can I do the same?” My Great Uncle and Aunt did it, my Grandparents did it, and I want to do it. Legacy doesn’t mean dying after a long life and being fondly remembered, but living well and making an eternal impact.

Now he sings a new song, one too beautiful for me to yet comprehend; it harmonizes with what his life sung of the grace and glory of God.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”      Colossians 3:1-4


Readers, This month we will be diving into thoughts on legacy. Who has left a lasting mark on your life in a way you would like to do for others? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.

chara-donahue-head-shotChara Donahue enjoys freelance writing, Biblical counseling, and speaking to women when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She is a regular contributor at Portland Moms Blog and her words have appeared at (in)courage, Christianity Today: Women Leaders, and The Huffington Post. She longs to be a voice that says, “Hey we are in this together, and there is room for us all.” You can find more from Chara at One Anchored Voice, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

The Story of Wonder

 

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.”-Psalm 77:11

There is an upside-down topsy-turvy nature to the story that God is writing. The pages of the Bible take its readers through an unexpected storyline. It’s a lot less #blessed, and a lot more figuring out grace, belief, faith, and trust in the middle of mundane endeavors. The place where God shows up time and time again isn’t when everything is clean, or when life is easy, but right in the middle of pain, confusion, and a sink full of dishes. This life with God is more about being withless about doing. It’s more about following when we cannot seeless about striving after the perfect plan.

I’ve often missed the gift of wonder by not noticing what God has done, because I am so busy trying to stay away from the mess. The truth is, we cannot understand the gravity of the wonders of this God who is utterly outside all our paradigms unless we see the mess he entered into. It is easy to take things that are true, but strip them down to a sanitized version that can fit on a mug wreathed in trendy watercolor flowers.

“Look among the nations, and see;

 wonder and be astounded.

For I am doing a work in your days

 that you would not believe if told.” Habakkuk 1:5

People wonderYes, wonder. Yes, be astounded. Yes, believe that God is doing something amazing that you don’t even see yet. All that is true, but keep reading. Go back a few verses, read about how fed up the author is with injustice and how he cried out to God. The answer he received: This is not going to go the way you want it to. You’re going to lose. There will be pain. Yet somehow, this predicament was the work of God. His response, even though it’s going to be awful:

“…yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

 I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

 he makes my feet like the deer’s;

 he makes me tread on my high places.”

-Habakkuk 3:18-19

I want faith like this. It is faith that astounds. A faith that makes the world wonder, because it raises the question, “Is that person crazy, or is this Jesus is real?”

  • When people cling to God despite a dangerous diagnosis. Not because God will automatically heal them, or make life good again (though he could, and sometimes does), but because He is their strength.
  • Joy in the midst of struggle, be it financial uncertainty, difficult relationships, or loss.
  • Declarations of the goodness of God despite the current state of affairs.

Looking into the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ, gives flesh to the ways God is working even in incredibly hard times. Without vulnerability and close connection within a community of believers I would be tempted to view their lives out of context in the same way I cherry picked verses for so many years.

Look at that great promotion, the cute Instagram picture, the orderly children who said the cutest thing today, and so on and so on. We must let people into the struggle, or they won’t know the goodness of God in the midst of it.

Stories of wonderThe wonder that a couple made it to their next anniversary isn’t there, if you don’t know how desperately they prayed to be able to forgive one another. Again. The wonder of the college student graduating isn’t there, if you don’t know that they were taken from their parents for their own safety and bounced from foster home to foster home all through grade school. The wonder of God in the person limping past you, is lost when you don’t know that only a year ago they couldn’t walk.

I’ve truly been amazed by the steadfast love of God when I see his story both on pages and in the lives of his children in context. I find wonder in listening. By asking another the question, “What is God doing in your life?” You will find more of God revealed. I’ve also been listening through the Bible in large chunks at a time. It was supposed to take 90 days- which would put me in Revelation by now, but I’m a bit behind and through 2 Samuel instead.

Listening to the stories of these characters, their  relationships, and God’s story of redemption has opened up the scriptures to men in a new way. The lives of the people known to be “heroes” of the faith are just as messy as the lives of those who surround me today, if not more so. Their story isn’t written so that I can try to measure up, but to give a picture of a person following God through all the ups and downs.
They, like me, needed to see the goodness and graciousness of God in response to their flaws. I need mercy. I get stuck. I find my identity in all sorts of things that cannot satisfy. Even when I know only Jesus does. These stories. Your story. My story. We are living pictures filled with wonder, not because we have lived perfectly, but because we have lived with faith.


Readers, What causes you to be amazed by Got? What causes you to be struck by someone’s story?

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

This Side of Wonderland

Author: Kimberley Mulder

When I was younger I lived off of Wonderland Road. It’s a long boundary road on the west side of London, Ontario, that unassumingly enters from corn fields in the north. It rolls down the best bike coasting hill, through countless intersections, over the River Thames, past gaping parking lots until again it trundles back out to the cornfields. There is nothing deeply wonderful about it, and London is a long way from Wonderland, but it’s there that my wondering began. 

God can take our wonderings, even our worryings, and use them to draw us close to Him.It is here that I grappled with the wonderings of youth: “Do they like me? Does he like me? Will she be okay? Why did they have to die? Who is God? Is He good? What should I do with my life?” I had moved to this beautiful old subdivision off Wonderland Road at age nine, but the map to identity seemed like it was hidden in Wonderland itself. 

This was as it needed to be, so that I could discover Wonder Himself. I took my questions everywhere and found answers at church, not at school. When I reeled in shock at the sudden deaths of friends in a tragic accident, I wondered “How could this happen?” My comfort came not in knowing why or how, but in knowing Him.

These words of the Heidelberg Catechism sprang to life from their deaths: “What is your only comfort in life and death? That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” Into this assurance I dug deeper, wondering anew at each discovery and finding a new wondering underneath, until I found that the process of wondering and discovering produced true Wonder in my heart.

K Mulder WonderThat place of Wonder became homebase, became my rock to stand on, became the soil for my roots, became the “I” for my identity. Wonder welcomed me on this side of Wonderland. It is beautiful how God can take our wonderings, even our worryings, and use them to draw us close enough to Him that we stop wondering and simply sit in Wonder. Gone is the need to know and be in control,  what comes is peace in the unknowing as the Wonder of our hearts holds us close.

Had Jesus answered every question quickly and definitively (which is what I wanted), I would not have discovered the wonder of being with Him. Sure, I would have had answers but no relationship. A text book faith.

My faith would have been as boring and expected as the asphalt strip of Wonderland that bounds London. I think I would not have ventured far in faith or life (and what is the difference between these?), I would not have become glad in the humble place of not knowing. I would not have clung to Him but rather to the road. Jesus is the Way, but he is not a road. Do not cling to the path you are on, cling to Him – and He will lead you in all ways wonderful!


 Readers, How can you incorporate more wonder into your day? Take a moment to marvel at the greatness of our God.
2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Though trained as a bassoonist for her undergraduate degree, she expresses her creativity now in gardening, cooking and writing.  Traveling to new places is a joy for her, including the challenge of learning a new language and trying whatever the local food is – even roast guinea pig and horse meat! And wherever she is, she spends as much time outside as she can. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and records the reflections and connections Jesus gives her to share with others.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

At the Door of Obedience

My adult life has not been marked by a lot of risk. That is, up until the fall of 2015. After 14 years of working for the same employer, things had come to a head at my husband’s job at a martial arts school. One evening my husband came home and revealed a troubling situation that had unfolded at work. There was only one thing to do. Through uncertain tears, I told my husband I just wanted to be done. It was no longer the right thing to stay at this job. My husband looked at me with agreement and said, “Okay, I’ll quit tomorrow.”

obedience martial artsThat night, he stayed up in the wee hours of the morning, trying to meet the unknown with hope, he began the search online for other job opportunities. Jobs for martial arts instructors in the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) aren’t exactly ripe for the taking. North Carolina was an option, but for people who are planners, not risk takers, the thought of moving across the country terrified us.

Obedience through Faith

God was calling us both to radical obedience and to have faith in His unseen plan. We are typically the kind of people who plan out our next move, months, if not years in advance. But in this situation, we had to obey without any clear direction in mind. We hadn’t premeditated my husband quitting his job. We didn’t have the next move lined up. We couldn’t rely on our own strength. We had to obey and trust God that He would show us the next move. I found myself leaning on God’s strength like never before. This was definitely a whole new level of obedience for me.

He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

My husband went to work that next day, informed his boss he was quitting and would leave enough time to train a replacement. Because of this unprecedented move, the way things went down at his work went differently, which was good, but it meant my husband spent the next week on the phone, exploring what might be our next move. It was terrifying. We both felt sick to our stomachs. The future we had planned on seemed to have evaporated, and now we had no idea where God would place us. Then God opened a door and my husband secured a position as head instructor at a martial arts school, not in North Carolina, but just 45 minutes away from home.

Trusting God for an Unknown Future

Each step of the way, God called us to have faith and obey. He opened one door after another but only one door at a time. In this journey, God gave us one clear direction but only for each step. It wasn’t obvious how all the steps would connect, how each would help my husband’s career goals or secure the needs for our family in the future. We just had to obey and move forward in faith.

When the panic attacks started. I tried to embrace this new level of faith in God for me as we faltered into an unforeseeable future. I remembered, Abraham had also been called to obedience without being able to see the future.

 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

Hebrews 11:8

Opportunities would emerge then the door would slam shut. It was discouraging, disheartening. Until December of 2015, when an opportunity to buy a local martial arts school opened up. It was very unexpected.We thought that door had closed. It looked promising, but how would we manage the financial end of purchasing a business? Was it God-given or a fool’s foothold?! Could we risk again? He unveiled the path. Just one way. So united in love and faith we said “yes!” and walked through the door.

obedience YesI worried during this time that the bottom would just fall out from underneath us. I found hard questions circling all the time. Could my God be trusted? Could I trust Him with our future? What would become of us and our two little girls? Even after we bought the school, our fears didn’t just disappear. We wondered how we would pay the bills each month. Yet God provided the exact right staff, as well as new students for our school.

May 1, 2017 marks our one year anniversary of being owners of our own martial arts school. It’s been an exciting, frightening, and victorious year for my husband’s career. It’s also been a life changing 20 months and a spiritual journey of obedience as we’ve trusted God to provide for our needs.

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

This verse doesn’t mean difficult things won’t happen or we won’t have struggles, but it is a comfort to know that God has an endgame in mind and has provided everything we need as we hope and trust in Him.


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

Enough Renewal for Today

When I consider the word “renewal,” it suggests to me the freshness of each new day. I do love the promise hidden in the hope of a new year, but lately I find myself needing to take things one day at a time. One step, when finances are tight and I literally have no idea where we will find the money.  One moment, when life’s uncertainties crowd my mind and heart. One breath, when my body is weary and my spirit feels weak.

I am encouraged when I think about my strength for the day as the manna God sent the Israelites while they wandered in the desert. Manna, a special wafer that tasted of honey, would only last one day before it rotted and then God renewed the supply with fresh manna in the morning.renewal-for-today

If renewal can represent “freshness” then it’s antithesis would seem to be “stale.” Stalehow I feel when evening comes around. I’ve spent the day wiping snotty noses, convincing my children to eat their meals, on the phone with insurance sorting things out, scheduling bills online, looking at financial projects, and I feel stale. Tired. Sometimes I even feel a little hopeless. But God has given me enough grace for today, and just enough hope to make it into the tomorrow that awaits. Then in the morning there will be new manna, and  restored hope.

I find comfort in this verse:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ ” Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)

todays-renewalI’m not a morning person, but I do find problems are easier to face after a good night’s rest, in the daylight, and after a hearty breakfast. Last night’s problems often seem smaller in the light of the morning. If I stretch my mind too far into the future, I start trying to control my circumstances and forget to accept the daily manna God is giving me with thankfulness.

There’s a good reason God commanded us not to worry in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

As a pretty solid type A personality and a planner by nature, it’s hard for me to accept daily renewal. I want the renewal to last longer! I wish to make plans far into the future and have things fit into nice little boxes. However, it would be foolish to not listen to the wisdom God has been showing me. I’ve been learning that leaning on my own strength leads to bouts of severe anxiety, and then I fret about things I have no control over. So I lift my eyes from my own power and thankfully accept God’s daily renewal as I trust him for all the days of 2017.


Readers, Do you trust God for strength or are you striving to muscle it out on your own? What is one step you could make today that would help you trust in God’s provision for you?

sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

 

In 2017…

Happy New Year Anchored Voices readers! We are hopeful this blog finds you well and rejuvenated as we march onward into 2017.

For me, a new year brings about anticipatory feelings of hope and elation. I reflect upon the works God completed in me throughout the past year, and I prepare my heart for what is to come in the next 365 days.

in-2017-i-will-wait-upon-the-lordFor many, a new year equates to a fresh start. Thankfully, as someone who loves Jesus, I am able to experience a clean slate every day, not just once a year. Psalm 51:10 says “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” I relish in the fact that I have complete freedom in Christ, and I am allowed error.  Perfection is too heavy a weight for my soul. In my erroneous moments I have rest for though God sees me for who I am, a sinner, He chooses me anyway. Romans 5:8 shares “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There is nothing that I can do that will separate me from God. How liberating!

2016 rocked a lot of people’s worlds. It possessed its blessings, but also brought forth many mixed emotions, including terror, despondence, and sorrow. As I am on the cusp of 2017, I have decided to forgo New Years resolutions; instead, I am resolved to focus on these mantras:

When chaos surrounds me, as it surely will in 2017, I can cling to the hope I have in Jesus. I can seek after Him. I will aim to put others above myself, and do so sacrificially with my time and money. I will hide God’s word in my heart, so that I will not sin against Him. When I need answers, I will look to Scripture and learn more about God’s character, because He never changes. I will be rooted and established in love, and show more kindness and forgiveness to those who need it most. I want to be a peacemaker and reconcile adversaries. I want to point those to Jesus, and embolden them to cling to Him. Lastly, in 2017, I will wait upon the Lord, renewing my strength in Him, and continue to run the race set before me with endurance. By focusing upon these deep and holy truths, I remove the pressure to perform my resolutions, and instead look to God and His glorious grace and goodness.in-2017-renewal


Readers, What truths are you holding to as we enter 2017? We pray you will learn, grow, and be blessed by our Savior.

sarah-dohman-square Sarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Twitter.

 

 

Confronting Unbelief

Free association tests are no longer exclusive to psychotherapy offices. We click on them when social networking sites claim they will reveal our personalities, and play them as party games. These enjoyable games act as simple exercises to awaken the creative parts of the brain, sometimes bogged down by the frantic call of business, duty, and daily life.

For me it usually goes something like this:

Chocolate…Yes, please

Dog…Border Collie

Journalist…My granddad.

Belief…Help, my unbelief! Always, it is always—help, my unbelief.

I feel like this is a constant prayer of mine, a mental whisper that suddenly and audibly explodes when I behold the brokenness of the world, my city, and my home. When I am forced to see the misery and am tempted to give myself over to sorrow.

There is no one I trust with my unbelief more than God. I know this seems counterintuitive, but like the Father in Mark 9 who sought healing for his boy, I listen to Jesus when he says “All things are possible for one who believes.” My response comes out as a beggars prayer, “I believe; help my unbelief!” It is also a prayer I freely let my children see me plead.

I have never held one of my babies without my belief in a gracious, just, and loving God. I cannot even imagine what that would be like. The amount of trust it demands of me to not be anxious for their lives is something that insists upon supernatural strength.

Sending them off to school for the first time, letting them begin to cross the street alone, or allowing them to attend their first sleep over  — the only thing that keeps a sense of panic from overwhelming me is the truth that God loves them more than I do, and He knows the plans for their lives.

I know their little eyes are watching me. They are observing and critiquing the life of their mother. Sometimes I wonder, which will they see and remember, my belief or my unbelief? Will they understand the beauty of how these intertwine? Do I have the guts to teach them?

I believe the only life worth living is one empowered by authentic, Jesus-centered faith. Peace that passes understanding, repentance, and perseverance are superior to  a perfectly polished façade that can’t admit it’s own inability to save.

So I let my children witness conviction that drives me to my knees, and profound hope in impossible circumstances. I let them see me cry over the broken and lost. I allow them to witness me stand up for what is right, and I go to them humbly and share the grace I experience when I fail. I refuse to dress my faith up as something shiny or pretty, but have it be something that rusts and bends when real life hits. I want my faith to be my life, and offer life—something that feeds my soul and delivers nourishment to the growing faith of my little ones.

I don’t want to pretend the faith walk is easy: I want them to see that it is an authentic hike towards glory, with peaks, valleys, and a view that makes it all worth it. That the race set before them is worth persevering in, worth sacrificing for, and worth giving their all.

I know that Jesus is the only one who can answer their vexing  questions that are bound to come, and that their salvation does not depend on me. Yet, I pray they would venture into life with  a white-knuckled grasp on the robe of Jesus,  and curious eyes that look up to God’s face of love with a seeking heart. For when the trials come and they can’t muster the strength to stare their hardships in the face dauntlessly, it is my hope that they too will pray the prayer they heard their mama utter a thousand times before, “I want to believe; Help my unbelief.”


Readers, Do you believe God can meet you in your unbelief? Where do you need to ask for His help today?

e9d88-chara2bbio2bpic2bsquare2b600pxChara is a freelance writer, certified biblical counselor, and speaker. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She loves to write about faith, culture,  and the deep truths that drive our fascinations with it. Chara is the founder and editor of  Anchored Voices and can be found on multiple social media platforms @CharaDonahue.

 

An earlier version of this post originally ran at Overflow.

When Dreams Change

Author: Holly Berg

“Well?” he said, waiting for an answer. “What are you going to do?”

We were sitting in his office – him, leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk, me, in the swivel chair across from him with my feet tucked beneath me, spinning myself around and around and around as I tried to make a decision.

I had been planning the cross-country move for more than a decade. I attended university after high school like my parents wanted, even earning a “sensible degree” in economics – but my passion had always been horses. The deal was that if I graduated from university, my parents would support me in whatever I chose to do next, even if that meant moving 3000 miles away to study horses at the best school of its kind in the country.

Hours earlier I had received a letter from that school informing me that I had been wait listed. They allowed ten students into the English Horsemanship program and I was unlucky number eleven. I had flown across the country a month before to tour the school and perform a riding test. I made one mistake – picking up the wrong canter lead and not correcting it quickly enough – and I was done. “You’re welcome to try again next year!” the letter said.

What was I going to do? 

“I’m going to go anyway!” I finally decided, surprising even myself with the boldness of the statement.

“Seriously?” he asked.

“Seriously.” I reached out to stop the spinning chair. “It’s now or never, right?”

“Well, if that’s what you want to do …” I could tell he wasn’t sure.  I don’t have a history of courage, and the thought of me, moving across the country to a place where I didn’t know anybody, had no place to live, and had no job lined up must have seemed a little bit silly.  But I was sure.

Three months later he dropped me off at the airport with a crushing hug and a promise to keep in touch, and I stepped onto a plane with two suitcases crammed full of my worldly possessions.

* * * *

I spent the summer working as a wrangler at a ranch for inner city kids, allowing me to combine my passion for horses with my passion for youth. Midway through the summer I received notice that I had been accepted into the English Horsemanship Program at my dream school, and everything else fell into place.

At first it was everything I dreamed it would be. I took classes on saddle fitting, tractor driving, and hoof trimming. I rode horses every day – for college credit! I loved every second.  My dreams were coming true!

But somehow, something wasn’t quite right.

During the summer I used my horse knowledge – my passion – to reach kids. For whatever reason, even the toughest of the tough opened up at the corral – and I was able to tell them about Jesus. For the first time in a very long time horses weren’t a tool to achieve my own aspirations – they were a tool to reach hurting youth for Jesus.

But that wasn’t the dream. And I couldn’t change my dream – could I? What would people think? That I had given up?  What would I do? Drop out of school? Where would I live?  Where would I work? Would I have to move back home? What would people think?

I fought it at first, clutching tightly to what I had always worked for. I didn’t want to disappoint my friends, my family, or my coaches. I was afraid to stop my full-steam-ahead charge towards achieving what had always been my dream.  For twenty-one years my life had been pointing towards one goal and one goal only. Changing direction seemed like a waste, especially since I had no idea what the future held.

But then I realized the truth:  “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”(Proverbs16:9, NKJV).  I had been dreaming and planning for my entire life, but had I allowed the Lord to direct my steps?

Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  (ESV)  The more we delight ourselves in God, the more aligned we will be with what He wants for us and our lives. Our desires become better aligned with His – and nothing else matters. Not what our friends think, or our families, or our coaches.

The bottom line:  Dreams change, and so do we.

God doesn’t. He is the same yesterday and today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8, NIV). If we trust Him and allow Him to work in our hearts and our lives, He will pour on the blessings in astonishing ways.  (2 Corinthians 9:8, MSG).


Readers, How have your dreams changed over the years? Have you seen God use your own plans to better reveal His own?

Holly Berg is a wife, mama, writer and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. She writes to challenge, encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the everyday, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. Read more of her writing at http://scattered-words.net.

d2567-guest2bpost2bav