Taking Time

Like any mom with three small children, I have trouble resting. There’s always a load of laundry to fold, a dishwasher to unload,and children waiting to be bathed or fed. When I do have a few minutes to sit down, I have difficulty using that time for actual rest and instead find myself updating my to do list.

Rest Sarah ClewsSometimes I’m good at setting boundaries and saying “no” to obligations and appointments. Yet still I often find myself rushing from task to task. Not to mention how social media amplifies the sense that one isn’t doing enough. Instagram is full of what feels like hashtagging taunts of “mom boss” and “hustle.”

Our family just closed out two weeks of sickness, colds, and even one case of pink eye. Although it felt frustrating that everyone was down, it was also a gift in disguise. I canceled my normal appointments, obligations, and errands. I was forced to stay home, slow our pace and rest.

I don’t know why I think I can push and push. Even Jesus took times of rest. When I think about his ministry—three short years, I am baffled. From a human perspective, if you only had three years to accomplish your life’s work, you might be thinking, “Hey, I can’t possibly take a break now!” And yet Jesus took time.

Time to sleep

Mark 4:35-40

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Have you ever been so tired you couldn’t stop crying? This happened to me recently. I was bone tired. I needed to sleep, but a nap…who has time to nap?  

Jesus had time. During the three most significant years of his life, Jesus took a nap.

Time away from others

It’s so interesting to me that Jesus felt the need to get away from the crowds now and then. He encouraged his disciples to come with him away from the people that had been following them.

Sarah Clews RestWe all need a break from people once in awhile. As an introvert, I definitely get worn out by groups larger than seven people and need to spend some time at home either alone or with just with my family.

I find the verses like Mark 1:35 comforting,  “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Time to abide with Jesus

Another way for the weary soul to rest and refresh is by spending time in God’s word or praying. I find myself inundated by memes, sayings, and the words of humans all week long. I long for something truly refreshing—the timeless truth of God’s word.

“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”-Jesus (John 4:14)

God isn’t surprised by our humanity or our need for rest. He understands, sympathizes and modeled what it looks like. He meets us in our weaknesses and even commanded a day of the week just for resting so we would take the time to find 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.

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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)

My Husband’s Legacy

I know this wonderful man. A man that believed his efforts were good enough on their own, who thought he could determine his own destiny. He had prayed a prayer inviting Christ Jesus to enter in and take control of his life, but didn’t let go. Not fully understanding how that prayer he prayed would actually change his life he stayed in his sin. So this young man grew in the confidence that his self-efforts were making him successful. And he tried to find rest in his achievements: business owner by age 17, plus a husband, homeowner, and rescue dog by age 20.

Brian Bradley (3)While this man knew all along that sin broke the heart of God, but had a hard time being affected by that. The man believed he knew what was best and that surely God would agree with him. He carried on until the day when temporal triumphs crashed in, and all he thought secure threatened to fail. At age 22 he felt the severing cut of divorce, while business struggles constricted around the life he had built. To his knees he fell as he bowed before God, desperate for Him for the first time. He placed the motives of his heart on display to the God who already knew them, and got real. He literally cried out to God, questioning His goodness in this life. The man came to the place that God had wanted him to be all along, completely at his end and unable on his own.

There are many facets at work in this man’s journey and his learning to utterly depend on Christ. It is beautiful to see the incredible and deep healing that Christ did in his life, turning him around completely. This man has now led several people to the redeeming grace of Christ, and has discipled many in the ways since his own surrender.

I know this story well, for this man has been my husband of almost 7 years. The things that God has done to change his life have been a blessing to me and our children. He is a loving, devoted husband, a fun, caring dad, and leads in our church as one of the church’s pastors.

Two years ago my husband and I sat down with his grandparents to talk about the family tree. As we peeled back layer by layer of his paternal family’s history, we learned something that still brings us to tears. After years of feeling like the only pastor type in his family. My husband discovered what he thought to be true was a misunderstanding. In the retelling of generations past it was revealed to us that there is a long line of preachers in his ancestry. A great grandfather, a great-great grandfather, and many great uncles generations back. I think we may have lost count after seven different small town pastors / preachers in the family line emerged from the pages of his descendants. That day we inherited an old Bible that was preached from and written in by his great grandfather, a man who most likely planted seeds of prayer for those who would someday be born into his family line. Stories of joy and loss were listed on the front page, and it was absolutely incredible to read about the journey of faith that had been hidden from our knowledge, but that still wove a legacy.

Prayer for childrenAs I think about the legacy we want to leave for our children and their children and down through the generations. I think of all the things I want to be known for. In actuality, it’s a little bit vain when I base the hopes on myself and what they will remember of me. However, when I look back down the line and see that people in my daughter’s ancestry, even hundreds of years back, loved Jesus and devoted their lives to serving Him, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude, and I too begin to pray for generations to come.

My husband is a living example of a man who lays down his life daily for his family, taking sacrifices upon himself for our well-being. I love that my children get to look at his life, and see Jesus reflected. I am deeply inspired that it is not just his life, generations of the faithfulness of God are intertwined with in their bloodline. It encourages me to dream about how the story of God at work in our lives will be told to those who may never know us. How curiosity may one day lead a young man or woman to look back with wonder about the works of our Mighty God.

Come what may, my prayer for my children is that they will surrender to Him who loves them most. That they will use the gifting God has given them in a way that will glorify Him as they follow fearlessly in the calling He has for them. And that they would open their Bibles in times of sorrow and joy to proclaim to the generations, “Look what God has done!”

 

“That the generation to come might know,

even the children yet to be born,

That they may arise and tell them to their children,

That they should put their confidence in God

And not forget the works of God,

But keep His commandments,” Psalm 78:6-7


Readers, Thank you for going through this series on legacy with us. What legacy would you like to leave?

britney-squareBritney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is mother to 3 girls (so far) Ruby, Cora, and Lily, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.

Seeking Beauty

I stared at the glowing screen, eyes glazed over, darting from one item to the next. I compared products and added to the ever growing “wishlist.” Babies don’t need much, but we are foster parents and instead of 9 months of preparation, we have weeks to prepare. Car seats. Consumer reports. Carriers. Will it arrive in time? Thank God for free two day shipping.

Completely overwhelmed I ended the night gazing at the problem through tears. Wishing the pain that causes a child to need a backup plan on no one. My empathy ignited for separated families and those stuck in cycles they cannot escape. The fear of the unknown future for this tiny one, for my heart.

beauty-seekingI seek the physical necessities, but also mourn that life has not been stable and “put together”. I plan out what furniture we need to collect and find Pinterest projects to beautify spaces. I long for this child to be celebrated, welcomed, and loved if even for a short time.

But the beautiful printables didn’t calm my heart. The wish-list increased my anxiety. Grasping for control only proved how out of control I actually am.

Through tears I expressed my crazy to my husband. He pointed me back again to the only source of peace: dwelling deeply in Christ. My gaze shifted. My heart calmed.

Dwelling, Gazing, Seeking. This is what I must be about.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4 NIV

Dwelling:

I sometimes forget that I don’t need to fix all the problems, mitigate all the relationships, and control the situation. I can dwell with my God in worship. Not just someday in heaven, but moment by moment; being near to the one who made me. Abiding with the one who loves me most.

Gazing:

I can gaze upon his beauty as I marvel at his character. Mercy. Forgiveness. Overwhelming love. Love that not only believes in redemption and second chances for all, but also cares for the most vulnerable with justice and compassion. Rather than focusing on what is in front of me, I must turn my eyes to the eternal.

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 3:2-3

dwelling-gazing-seeking-this-is-what-i-must-be-aboutAs a turn my eyes from today to the one who is truly life, I can stop striving, because God’s wisdom, his Spirit, and his love are available to me. He who named the stars of the sky, who created galaxies, and has been working out redemption throughout all of human history also knows me intimately. He is at work in the entire world and yet

You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle.  Are they not in your book? Psalms 57:8

My heart is put at rest knowing that God is good. My anxieties ease as I stare into his power and greatness. I can leave him in control, for he loves me as well as those I fret over when midnight nears.

Seeking:

Seeking him out is the most beautiful pursuit. I don’t need to know the end of the story to know that God will be at work. He does not just take people who are doing well at life and shine them up a bit, but he transforms the worst situations possible into something beautiful.
It is not simply the “someday” resolution, wrapped up in a bow, that creates beauty in the midst of the messiness of life. Choosing to dwell with, gaze at, and seek the giver of life allows true beauty to bloom in chaos.


Readers, Whatever your cares the weight of them can be revealed by keeping your eyes on the the God who can carry it for you. May you seek and find rest as you search for His beauty today.

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.

He Makes Things Beautiful

My husband and I are expecting our third child, a daughter, at the beginning of April. The state of my house indicates that clearly I have reached the third trimester. The cupboards are gutted and rearranged. Things that probably don’t need cleaning are cleaned. My seeking to add beauty to our final baby’s room has overflowed onto the rest of our apartment, as browsing through Pinterest and Instagram inspire dreams of new décor and transforming our space.

After giving time and attention to these things, I sometimes find a guilty monologue echoing through my thoughts. These things don’t last. What eternal value do they have? What good will come from surrounding our lives with the material glitz of this world? Is it honoring to God to be so enamored  by all the pretty things?

he-makes-things-beautifulThen as I looked out my window at the creation whose beauty cries out praise to the creator, that it can be honoring to Him! God didn’t create a purely utilitarian world. He dressed it beautifully, adorned it for our enjoyment and to remind us that He is with us. The appreciation of something beautiful truly brings a spark of hope to the downtrodden soul.

“All that is good, all that is true and all that is beautiful brings us to God. Because God is good, God is beauty, God is truth.”~Pope Francis

How I love the stillness and purity of the outdoors after a fresh snowfall! I don’t love the cold, but I appreciate the magic of the untouched white as it gilds the bare, leafless trees. Oh, and how delighted I am to find the first cluster of tulips poking up after a hard winter. Even the Bible takes time to recognize beauty’s ability to impact living things.

Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.” Song of Solomon 2:12 (NIV)

Instagram has a virtual corner that has set itself up as a  marketplace, full of beautifully staged photos and lovely things people have taken the time to make and sell. I do love browsing through and enjoying the diversity of gifts God has given. I’m amazed by the abilities of freehand painters, and enjoy the beauty people are choosing to share. Investments in beautiful things others have made, add to my home. They remind me that created things, though never as great as the Creator, can remind us of who He is. Every time I look at them, I feel a little thrill of happiness and hope.

beautiful-thingsWe too can offer beauty. Occasionally, I find a project that’s within my scope and I get  to engage in creating my own beautiful things. I’m so thankful God didn’t just place us in a sterile  and industrial world with no color and no “scope for imagination” as Anne of Green Gables would say. From the freshly fallen snow to the first pink buds of spring, He has brought us beauty in every season. Whether I simply appreciate the natural world, or make beautiful things with my hands, I’m loving God’s generosity in allowing me to enjoy, find inspiration, and take part in beautifying a broken world as we hope for the day when beauty will be all we know.


Readers, How can you be a steward of beauty in your places? 

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.

Beauty for Ashes

By: Holly Berg

Three years ago we bought our son an adorable little t-shirt:  “Big Brother Team Captain”, it said. He wore it to Grandma and Grandpa’s house that evening – he was so excited to share the big secret he had been keeping.

My husband’s parents were ecstatic – they had been waiting for a second grandchild since the day our son was born!

Then I started bleeding. Just a little spotting, at first.

Then more.  beauty-for-ashes

We spent the night in the emergency room but by the time the doctor finally got around to examining me we already knew the diagnosis.

“Your pregnancy has terminated,” he said.  So cold. So clinical.

He gave me a prescription for T3 and sent me home with a dismissive “It’s so early, everything will happen naturally. Come back if the pain gets unbearable.”

Unbearable.

The next day I couldn’t move. I laid in bed and cried.

And cried and cried and cried.

We had only found out about the baby the week before.  One week – but I already loved my little bean.

I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect the pain.

My husband had to carry me to the bathroom and then hold me while I sat there, shivering, shaking, trying not to be sick.

I’ve never seen him cry so much, or so hard.  It had only been one week, but he loved our baby too.

* * *

Two months later I found out that I was pregnant again.

I hated every moment of my relatively easy pregnancy with my son, but I cherished each moment of this much more difficult pregnancy.   It was a pregnancy filled with worry and fear and anxiety, but God replaced our mourning with joy.  

The Bible says “Those who sow with tears will reap songs of joy.  Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”  (Psalm 125:5-6, NIV)  And it reminds that the Lord will “provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)

Ten months after my miscarriage, I gave birth to a healthy 6 lb 4 oz baby girl.  

Beauty from ashes.

At the time I clung to Scripture:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 (NIV))

Going through a miscarriage was horrible, it was scary and it was painful – but looking back, I can see how God revealed Himself – and His love for us – in that situation.  I can see how He worked all things – even our grief – for good.    

The tragedy we experienced strengthened my relationship with my husband. I remember the night after our trip to the hospital, lying in bed, sobbing, with a Kleenex box between us.  We were connected in love and grief.  We went through every moment of my third pregnancy together – my husband was much more attentive and much more involved than he had been the first time around!  We both learned that nothing in this life is a given – we need to depend on God for every single breath.  My husband was there for every doctor’s appointment, every ER visit, and every ultrasound – holding my hand, praying with me, calming my fears.  

ashes-and-beautyI also learned not to take the children I do have for granted.  Even on challenging days, when I’m exhausted and none of us are at our best, I see my children as blessings.  I realize my time with them may be fleeting so I try to make the most of each and every day with them. 

* * *

Maybe it’s just me, but in my experience beauty goes hand in hand with pain.  You can’t have one without the other.  

One of my favourite passages in Scripture says that we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, but “these have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV)

Being refined hurts.  Weaknesses and impurities are stripped away, leaving us with only what is genuine and true.  But the end result is something more worthy and much more beautiful than gold.  


Readers, Sometimes our deepest sorrows shine light on the richest beauty, but it is not always easy to see through the pain. It is our prayer that today you would have eyes to see that even in the midst of trouble God’s promises still stand true.

43483-2016headshotHolly 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 Scattered Words.

Renewed Strength

I have been in a season of constant minor sickness amongst my family. Be it a common virus or my children having a bout of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, it never seems to stop. It is one thing after another during these winter months, and honestly I feel isolated which gets depressing at times. I have needed to skip out on events that I would have loved to be at, not been able to see the faces of friends I love dearly, and let my husband go to things I no longer can, so that my children and I can rest. I know I chose rightly, but alas, often find myself feeling lonely.

Losing physical strength from being sick, even with a common cold, can cause me to reflect on life in an interesting way. I want to feel better, now. I want my kids to be better, now. I refute the persistence of the waiting process, because I feel like I miss out on life. In fact, I even sometimes succumb to despair and wonder if we will always be weak and never get better. Full health and capacity never to be seen again.

Then I reflect on this amazing passage from Isaiah:

renewed-strength“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31

I am reminded of where the renewal of strength truly comes from. It is not just from being at peak physical health, because that can quickly fail me. It does not come from a fun night out with my friends or husband, because the next day quickly approaches. It does not even come from a week long vacation in Hawaii even that can be totally exhausting.

True renewing strength, the kind that lasts and upholds us through to the end, can only come from God. Nothing that the world has tried to offer me as the cure to my weariness reaches beyond the moment and into the eternal places. Time with my Lord, and true devotion to Him, is what gives my soul strength to press on and take heart.

strength-renewedI run to my savior in prayer, telling Him every worry and desire that is in my heart. I long to hear from Him in those desperate moments; I long for Him at every moment. So I spend time reading His word and drawing on the timeless truths that He generously gives through the Bible. I look for Him through the colds and chaos and find He is bigger than it all.

Receiving strength from the One who knows the depth of my weakness, He who created the whole world, the Savior who cleanses my heart, only here do I find the renewal that will last. As this passage in Isaiah says, He gives power to the faint, and He increases our strength. Our bodies will grow weary, yet He can make us soar. Truths like the one found in Isaiah encourage me when I feel like giving up and  awaken my desire to turn to the God who sustains us for all of our days.


britney-squareBritney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is mother to 3 girls (so far) Ruby, Cora, and Lily, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.

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.

 

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas (My Single Mother Gave to Me)

When pine trees and baking supplies started making their way into my home as a young child, I, accompanied by my stealth-like snooping skills, made my way to my mother’s best kept hiding places. I was a peeker. A present-peeker to be precise, and Christmas mornings were filled with anticipation not because of the surprise that awaited, but because I already knew what the wrapping cloaked. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the toys I had already previewed.

As a wise single mom, my mother would intentionally start purchasing gifts months ahead of time, so her budget could handle blessing her three children. This gave me plenty of time to seek and find. I would climb over dressers and toss sleeping bags that shouldn’t have been touched till summer all in an effort to spoil her surprise. I never once wondered “Will we get anything?” What I didn’t understand was the amount of sacrifice my mother made to ensure that we never considered questions like that.

Now as a mother of four, I marvel at all she did. Breaking up my children’s tiny-bodied, big-voiced arguments, instructing them in life skills like using a toilet, and trying to teach young hearts about maturing faith can leave me feeling exhausted, but my husband is in the thick of it with me, tagging in when I tap out. My mother held to Jesus and persevered. As her children slept, she pushed through exhaustion to correct the homework I finally did, sew the flags my sister spun, and figure out how she could afford to buy her son’s first instrument, who (unbeknownst to her) would one day play at Carnegie Hall.

She may have been a single mother, but she offered us a home that felt complete, whole. She changed my sister’s diapers and attended my brother’s games. She pulled me away from parties and lifted us up with prayers. She showed us all what it was to be at rest when the world demanded we strive, and nurtured an imperfect situation into a life that did not lack.

Sneaking through my house as a child, I wasn’t aware that our most precious things were not things at all, but memories, people, and faith. I was too distracted by the deluge of bows, desserts, and carols to see my mother draw strength from the baby depicted in the old wooden manger she put on display through out the holidays. She offered me the luxury of being so busy with childish things that I forgot to be thankful for her unwavering determination to create a home that offered sanctuary from the harshness of the world.

The memories she has given me offer riches greater than any reindeer-papered gift could ever give. I have them tucked away into the treasuries of my heart for the days when I need hope. I will always be grateful for the worn Bible that often laid open upon her bed, her constant presence, and the way she offered children who had experienced deep sorrow a place of peace.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed…” Proverbs 31:28

Readers, Are you a single mom? Thank you for all you do. I know it’s not easy, but those kids will someday be grateful. They just got to grow up a little ;).

Do you know a single mom who could use some encouragement today? How could you be the one to offer it?

Chara 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.

The Thanksgiving Phone Call that Changed our Lives

Author: Keri Nikkel

It was Thanksgiving Day. My husband Matt and I were at my in-laws, busying ourselves with laughter, food prep, and good conversation. Finally, the time came to eat. All the smells that had been tempting us for hours were about to be enjoyed. The food was set out buffet style in the kitchen, and we lined up one by one, each person grabbing a plate and creating mountains of mashed potatoes and turkey. I took a plate and held it out for Matt, but he wasn’t looking, he was on his phone. I rolled my eyes, thinking he was playing a game or checking NFL scores. But no, he had a missed call from our adoption case worker. Confused, we snuck off to another room to call her back, and heard the most unbelievable news I ever heard.

We had been chosen by a birth mother.

Eighteen months before that our adoption process had started. And the three years prior were full of doctors visits and no explanations. This process was full of uncertainty and hard work, which meant this control freak had a hard time not being in the driver’s seat. We experienced multiple delayed training classes, desperate fundraising to make the next big payment, a home walk through on our anniversary, and being one of 18 families waiting for a child. By the time we got the Thanksgiving call, we had become accustomed to waiting. And during the wait, I learned what God already knew, that I needed to experience that burdening season so I could learn that only He had control. He is worthy of being trusted with my deepest desires.

Twelve weeks passed between that Thanksgiving call and the time of the birth. That may not seem like much, but the anticipation and uncertainty made it feel like eternity. We loved on and built a relationship with the sweet woman who chose us, and were honored to be invited to witness her pastor pray over the unborn babe. Although, I could feel God strengthening us and leading us forward, I still felt like I was holding my breath—waiting for something to go wrong. Each day the enemy was quick to tempt me to be swallowed up by fear, and each day I had to make the choice to trust that God was bigger.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV

No matter the outcome, God knew what was best for the baby and for our family. My prayers turned from, “God, please let this baby come home with us” to “God, I know you have a will for this child. Please place him exactly where you want him, even if that isn’t in our home.”

Valentine’s Day was a Sunday. We went to church, holding secret that induction would be happening the next morning. Making small talk, all the while trying not to be constricted to death by uncertainty. Afterwards, we headed home, packed the car and drove to the town where she lived. Tossing and turning most of the night, we woke early and made the 10 minute drive to the hospital. The short drive felt like a never ending tunnel. I sat in the passenger’s seat, wringing my hands until we saw the tan brick building. We parked the car, slowly walked in and joined our case worker in the waiting room.

After thirty minutes of nervous chatter a nurse walked in, “she would like you to come up now.” My stomach dropped. We took the elevator up, and in what seemed like slo-mo we walked past the nurses’ station. Each one of them staring at us, giving hesitant smiles. When we reached her room I knocked on the door. A friend of hers (whom we had met before) greeted us and brought us in. In that moment, peace washed over me and I knew. God would be glorified here, whether I go home as a mommy or not. What mattered was supporting this precious woman and her excruciating decision. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 NIV

After two days of feeling all the feels and caring for a sweet baby boy, we took the two hour drive home as parents. The selfless love of a mother was the way I became one, and the details leading up to us bringing our son home minister to my heart every day. God also gave me an overwhelming love for a woman who chose life for a child who calls me Mama. And a trust in Him, that gives me courage in uncertainty.

Our lives have changed, and so has my faith. Not because this time I got what I wanted, but because God helped me learn to trade in fear for peace, control for obedience, and sadness for joy.

“LORD, you establish peace for us;

all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”

Isaiah 26:12 NIV


Readers, Do you have a story of how God showed you hope in a tough circumstance. We would love to help you share it. Check out our submissionspage for details.

Keri is a wife and new mama, who loves Jesus and believes we are all given a story that can be used to encourage others.