Holding Hamsters, "Onions", and Grudges- Part Deux

So most of this is a reblog from my Easter post from last year. I was going to write a new one… until my beloved middle son (the same one as below!) pulled another ‘easter surprise’ for me a few days ago- and the feelings were so similar to this time last year that I figured I’d just add the story to this one (feel free to check out the original post here!). That boy sure knows how to show me Jesus… lol. But let’s start with what happened last year…

(April 2018) Over the Easter weekend a tremendous and long-awaiting event occurred at the Douglas house. Jake came to visit us for the weekend! My sons in particular had been looking forward to this time together since last fall when we heard that there was a chance he might come visit. Since then almost every weekend came the expected, "Is Jake coming this week?" So, after many months, the special visit arrived. We picked Jake up after school on Thursday, settled him in his cozy little room at the house while both boys busily made plans for the long, 4-day weekend. Before long, all 96 hours of the Easter weekend were lovingly and thoroughly planned for Jake and our family. Quite frankly the first 20 hours were spectacular. Jake fit in with the family wonderfully, participating in all the kid's activities, eating what we gave him, and generally being quite pleasant. Our visit was going swimmingly.

Until he disappeared.

Or rather, I should say, until my 4-year Jonah old let him out of his cage....

And just like that, Jake the hamster was gone. The class pet, the children's Kindergarten mascot, who I was ultimately in charge of keeping, well... alive.... was MIA.

Before I knew it, my generally low-key, tidy world (I write this with the caveat that I have 3 children under 6, a dog, and a cat <who's role in this story will soon become apparent>, so take "low-key" and "tidy" for what you will...) was turned upside down. Instead of making dinner, I made non-lethal hamster traps (Google it, it's a thing). Instead of cleaning my house, I searched my house. And quite frankly I was irate. I was furious. Not that the hamster was lost necessarily, I was angry that my son (who we had already caught messing with the cage multiple times) had disobeyed me once again. I was 1003% O.V.E.R. him!

Me, who is used to high energy, high adrenaline, high trauma work... was seeing RED at my son's defiance. I was fuming. I called my husband, telling him to prepare himself for my mood and <his> child when he got home. I prepared for a long night, praying for a miracle; reasoning that it was Good Friday after all and surely if Christ could take the sins of the world upon Himself than certainly He could find and restore a rodent back into his cage. (Yes, my prayer was actually and literally that I would wake up and find little Jake happily and safely back inside his quarters... I know, I know... one can never accuse me of thinking or praying small!)

Fast forward to Saturday morning and Jake was found. Actually our cat Fievel was the one who discovered him and brought him to me like a good cat should. I, rather, found more specifically pieces of him. All over my bathroom floor. #goodmorningtome

I would have been mad except I literally don't think my anger from the previous night could have gotten any higher. I was legitimately perhaps the angriest I'd ever been at one of my children. The fallout from his decision to defy me continued on and it was not lost on me how much of a headache this visit was turning out to be. It was totally lost on Jonah though- he seemed to not even remember how or when he had opened the cage, only that he had. And though very sorry to see the bits of Jake all over my tile floor, he clearly hadn't made the connection that it was his disobedience that caused the hamster's untimely death. It was infuriating that I couldn't make him understand, and though he is only 4, I found myself resenting the ensuing expense and time to find another flippin' rodent, the embarrassing text to the teacher about the situation, and generally living down what, for anyone else that's not in the situation, is a hysterical story (the humor was not lost on me.) I resented him for it. Jonah could do nothing to fix the situation or even help it... an acknowledgment of guilt would have been nice at least. I was still angry.

Until my husband told me what had happened the previous night at church.

While I was busy (read: frantically) searching the house, christian-cussing under my breath about spending Friday night looking for a missing hamster who wasn't even ours... my husband had taken Jonah to a Good Friday walk-through at our church. I'm pretty sure it was more to ensure the tot's safety from my wrath than for his spiritual sake, but nevertheless at the end of the walk-through, having learned all about what happened to Jesus before and during his crucifixion, there was an opportunity to nail sins or burdens on a life-sized cross. When Gabe ask Jonah if there were any sins he needed to tell Jesus about he apparently replied, "I lost Jake." And taking a way-too-big hammer with a fresh nail, he nailed that black piece of paper his daddy had written his little sin on to the cross.

Que: massive mom-regret and a wee bit of self-loathing...

I was hit with a tidal wave of conviction. 24 hours later and I hadn't forgiven him yet, I was still dealing with the fall-out of his sins and disobedience and I desperately wanted him to understand what he had done.

It doesn't matter Bethany.

He doesn't understand anymore than you do of what sins you've committed. He and you don't need to... that's for Me to deal with, just as you are for him.

He asked for forgiveness. I have forgiven him.

You need to as well.

Fast-forward to several days ago and Jonah hit again. I was out in the yard, bemoaning how much yard-work there was to do before the mowing could commence, when I discovered a random flower bulb laying in the yard. Hmm… that’s interesting I thought, wonder where that came from. I continued cleaning up sticks when another wayward bulb appeared in front of me… another.. and then another. I looked up from my work towards my flower bed to discover that every. single. bulb. had been yanked out. ALL of them. I mean the entirety of my beautiful spring bulbs had been unceremoniously dumped onto the ground. In this garden, around that tree, in the front beds…. A.L.L. of them.

I flipped. I didn’t yell, I didn’t scream, I simply fell to the ground crying hot angry tears. I was done. Capitol D O N E done.

Now let me take a step back. I love to garden. I’d do it a lot more often if I got the chance. But it’s not like a live and breathe flowers. But we had just taken in a new, medically-complex foster kid, a backlog of work and appointments had been piling up in the interim of our transitioning her to our house. My mom-schedule (as all are) is tighter than a toddler’s mouth trying to feed him green beans. I had no extra time to replant dozens and dozens and DOZENS of bulbs. (Did I mention he pulled every.single.one?? Cue that christian cussing again.) Something inside broke a little bit. The recent days of my life had been those kind where nothing comes easily and everything takes 15 times longer than it should.

This day had just reached the “you have GOT to be kidding me!” phase.

Somewhere in the blur I ascertained that Jonah and a friend had pulled them all thinking they were onions. Knowing that onions ‘would make the flower garden smelly’ they took it upon themselves to correct the impending oderous problem.. In the moment, somewhere in my mind’s eye I acknowledged that to be a relatively fair deal. They weren’t being malicious… just curious and impulsive little boys (also in my minds-eye… curiosity killed the cat… but I digress.) I didn’t have the strength to deal with it- so I did what all professional moms do- I left the situation to dad.

I didn’t go to bed mad that night. I went to bed down. I went to bed sorrowful that I couldn’t seem to catch up and now (like it matters) all my beautiful flowers that I was so looking forward to enjoying would miss this season (they may even miss next spring and the next… because let’s be honest, it’s not like i’m going to make the 5-year-old replant them and I certainly have no time to right now.) It wasn’t a big deal. In the grand spectrum of eternity it didn’t matter at all. But it was the proverbial straw for me that day. And I wept bitter tears of exhaustion, sorrow, and not a little bit of discouragement.

The next morning, my blue boy knew I was still depressed. So, he did what this child does best- he picked me a flower. A big, beautiful, yellow tulip plucked out of the yard as his peace offering. It soothed my soul to see his little eyes peering up at me and that huge smile on his face as he told me that “this will make you feel better mommy!”

God is good to us. Even when we’re behind and running to catch up. He’s sees our shortcomings, our sorrow, our mourning of even the smallest things like pulled up “onions”. I think He must smile down lovingly, perhaps with a slight Fatherly smirk now and again as His children try so desperately to ‘help'.

And for those times when we royally but innocently mess up, His arms and smile open wide. Much like mine were when I found out that my tulip was the only one in the entire yard that (had) remained….

Where oh where?

Hello dear friends- I want to apologize for my extended silence. The fam is serving at Camp Barnabas this summer, as we always do, and I neglected to send you a "I'll be back in September" sort of heads-up. I promise I'm not dead (though there are days that I feel like it!) Camp swept us up into the CRAZY faster than I could type... so.... here's your official "I'll be back in September" heads -up. It's admittedly a little late, but better late than never. I wish you a wonderful summer of blessings! If you haven't already, pick up a copy of Helicopter Mom and get by the pool for some R&R. We're running our socks off out here but I promise to return to civilization here in a couple of months with much to write and ponder on.

Miss you, love you, be back soon!

Q&A With the Author ~ The World Sees Normal

I was honored to participate in a fantastic author Q&A with my good friend and fellow blogger Amber Blackburn. If you'd like to read more about the inception, motivation, and story behind writing Helicopter Mom, this is the post for you!

Check it out here!

Under the Influence

Sitting in church yesterday, our pastor was teaching out of Ephesians and he was towards the end of chapter 1 when Gabe nudged me saying, "That's the verse I prayed over you during your affair with Gina." (And yes, you read that previous sentence correctly, I had an affair with a woman. For more on that, read my testimony- God is SO good!) I had forgotten. Indeed, Ephesians 1:17-18 were the verses on his heart to pray endlessly over me during some extremely dark days. Because the truth is, I was under the influence of a pretty strong spirit, actually several powerful forces. Maybe not full-blown possession, but certainly oppression.

And the harsher truth is... so are you. Even now, sitting here reading my words.

We are all. Every single one of us is under a spiritual influence.

All. Of. Us. All. The. Time.

It's a sobering reality that I know many of us just don't give enough credence to and certainly can't completely comprehend. We are spiritual beings as well. Humans are designed with our own spirits.  We consist of our own body, mind, and spirit (Pro 20:27, Job 32:8, Ecc 12:7, I Cor 2:11, 2 Cor 4:16, 1 Thess 5:23 among others.) It would be foolish to think that our spirits are not an integral part of the cosmos.

Other spirits exist, they move about, they do what they can to influence us. Not unlike being underwater, the spiritual realm surrounds us, their currents carry us, their contact with us saturates our lives. The Bible talks at length, from beginning to end, all about spirits- our own personal ones, as well as the forces for good and evil that pervade the universe. Paul hammers it home in Ephesians 6, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Our struggle, our battles, our war is against spiritual beings. Not people, not countries, not ourselves... we are fighting, both externally but just as much internally, against eternal, supernatural spirits. They influence us, try to possess us, wage destruction around us, and overall just do everything in their power to manifest evil. Christians and non-christians alike are surrounded on all sides by spirits, each trying to exert it's own will against and into us.

Nice right? And terrifying...

But scripture also speaks even more at length about the one Spirit that we ought to let influence us... in fact we should pursue His possession; and that is the Holy Spirit.

We don't have a choice to participate in this cosmic battle in the heavenlies against Good and evil, God and Satan, Heaven and Hell. We are part of it, like it or not. We can drown or we can be made alive with living water; BUT we do have a choice as to which spirit, which side we let have control of our lives. The nice part is that we have a pretty clear outline as to which spirit will lead down which path. We can look all throughout the Bible but I'll stick to Ephesians just to stay consistent and you'll get the idea.

Ephesians 2: 1-3 

As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to walk when you conformed to the ways of this world and of the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the sons of disobedience. We all lived among them at one time in the cravings of our flesh, indulging its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature children of wrath.

Paul tells us in no uncertain terms here that as unbelievers we conformed to the ruler of the power of the air (Satan), who is a spirit... and who has unnumerable spirits working under him to deceive, destruct, and destroy. Furthermore, he tells of what kind of people we are while under these spiritual influences.

We are dead, sinful, cravers of the flesh (our sinful nature), indulging desires and thoughts of our flesh, children of wrath... Yikes (that last one always gets me!) I've been there friends and Paul ain't overselling this. This verse is exactly what I was and did in my sin.

But God promises such treasures for those who choose to be influenced by the Holy Spirit! His Word gives hope, wisdom revelation, an enlightened heart, riches of His inheritance.... the list could go on and on!

Ephesians 1:15-21 

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers and asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in your knowledge of Him. I ask that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. He displayed this power in the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.

I was deeply, deeply under Satanic influence during my affair. It is no coincidence that Gabe was led to these verses to combat the evil surrounding me. I desperately needed to new influence... an enlightened heart, and spirit of wisdom and revelation to show me the knowledge of God. I needed to choose a different spirit, to change sides and allegiances. I needed the Holy Spirit.

Today, I challenge you to ask the Father for His Spirit of wisdom and revelation. We all are under a spiritual influence... I cannot overstate this scriptural fact. More importantly, we don't just get a 'pass' because we know outside forces are trying to influence us. Influence is the operative word here dear ones- action is on us. Our actions and inactions are our decision, our choice, our responsibility- regardless of the spirits at work. Using 'bad influences' as an excuse at the gates of Heaven won't cut it. Furthermore, not believing it or subscribing to that 'spiritual' ideology 'mumbo-jumbo' personally also doesn't give you a pass in the heavenlies... if anything, the naivete makes you more wide open to the very influences you don't believe in! This is truth- plain and simple, and I'm a walking, talking example of someone who's been on both sides of the battle. It is REAL dear ones!

Which side is calling the shots in your life? Which influence are you working under? Who is the spirit/Spirit in your life that you pledge allegiance to? The gift of the Holy Spirit is free for all who want it! Here's a few more verses to help shed some light down the Holy Spirit-led path....

Isaiah 11:2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity,but of power, love, and self-control.

Romans 8:15

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"

 

I urge you to choose the Holy Spirit, to choose hope and wisdom, to choose life and life abundantly!

If you feel the Holy Spirit is pursuing you (which He is....!) and you want to know more about giving Him control of your life, please follow this link and we'll walk down the path to salvation together. 

Why the Grass Always Seems Greener on that Last Hill

I've noticed an interesting trend in my spiritual thought-life recently. It would seem that I live somewhat under the conviction that my last season of growth with God was better than my current one. I find myself looking back on myself from the previous season and feeling as though I'm just not 'doing it as well' now. I mourn that my walk seems more stagnant and my joy less jubilant, my prayer life less disciplined and the lessons I'm learning somehow not as impactful. I peer into the past and the spiritual education I was receiving and I am awed at times. I look back and see the huge strides my life displayed. Hindsight being 20/20 as they say, I think I like to reminisce back and see God's hand in my life. It strengthens my faith and shows me the places I've come from. But hindsight doesn't give us foresight, unfortunately. And when I compare those past seasons of my life to today's... suddenly it feels that today is not as good as it used to be.

The grass seems greener on that last hill I was on.

And I want to go back.

The really odd thing is that this has been happening for several seasons now. Each new one I enter into, I find myself looking back to the last with longing and not a small bit of envy and jealousy for that younger Bethany who seemed to have it more together. I'm well into a fourth season of doing this, and it's just now occurring to me that this has somehow become a thing in my life.

It was brought to my attention in my devo last night in Psalm 42, when David is bemoaning the better, more ecstatic and jubilant spiritual times.

I can sympathize with the king here. I get the whole reminiscing with bittersweet and sometimes angst-ridden cries out to God that things just aren't what they used to be- that the grass used to be greener- that I want to go back to that other time. I was doing better and more for You during that other season. I was growing and learning and more filled on that other hill.

And yet, ironically, time has told me more than once that this current season will be one of growth and 'greenness' too. I'm well into years of doing this bizarre looking-back and can see by the trend that this current season I'm in will quickly become the new 'best season and greenest hill' pretty much the second I leave it. That's clearly my MO. So why not quit looking back and start looking at the growth and uniqueness of this time and place?

I think God doesn't mind us peering back down the road from where we came- doing that allows us the 'Footprints in the sand' scenario. We can see missteps, trials and tribulations, and most importantly God's hand much more clearly in our life. Hindsight is a great faith-displayer and encourager. But it's not a faith-builder.

Here and now is the work of faith- this place, this season.

This hill, where I stand this moment, is the faith-builder in my life.

I think it's somewhat natural to compare... and it makes sense visually in my head. The law of reaping and sowing takes effect here. Of course all those past hills look green and lush and beautiful. If we are spiritually sowing good seeds, those seeds are now sprouting and growing and thriving. They are turning those past seasons of our lives (hard or easy- it matters not!) into glorious and breathtaking hills of lush, green, fragrant, flowered visions. And as the days pass, those seeds just continue to thrive. Each hill as I walk back to in my memory becomes more and more green. Even by this point, the extremely difficult seasons of my life are green. Looking back on those carries no sting, no judgement, no condemnation... all I see is God's mighty work in my life. Yes, even those hills are green by now.

And yet, I think I want this current season I'm in to be more. It's not like it's a barren wasteland... in fact it's quite nice. But when compared to last season (which, let's keep in mind, has several years of growth on it now...) today seems a bit 'blah' at times. I want it like that hill instead.

I don't know if anyone else every feels this way. It's only been brought to my attention by the Holy Spirit this week that I've even been doing it! But I've been convicted to try to be more present and see the grass on my current hill. Or better yet, if there's none... that's okay. God has called me to plant some. I think for me there is a small bit of unfaithfulness displayed in me when I keep wanting to compare and look back. God is faithful (as He's clearly shown by my excellent hindsight vision!) and He will be faithful today on this hill for this season. I need to be faithful in being present with Him as well.

This season and this hill may not seem up to par with the previous ones... however,  I must remember that I am sowing seeds- good seeds- and this one will eventually be just as beautiful and lush as the previous ones. My only hope is that I will look back on it with gladness and encouragement and not envy or longing for 'better times'.

Because in the end, the best time with God is always right now.

I Have a God-Complex ~ A guest post by Keagan Hayden

I'm not proud of it, but last week, I had the realization that I have a God-complex.

Last Thursday, my husband and I were baking for an event we were having at church.  The music was blaring through the house, and somewhere in the midst of that I could distinguish the ringtone of my phone.  It was my mom.  She asked me where I was, and it was a sharper, more immediate tone than normal.  I told her we were at home.  The next words out of her mouth were, "You need to go to our house.  The garage is on fire."  I don't even remember hanging up.  I just remember telling my husband we needed to go.

We ran out the door.  Houseshoes and all.  As we pulled out of the driveway, I prayed.  Out loud.  For 8 blocks.  Then, we ran up on a police vehicle blocking off the street.  While I couldn't see smoke or the garage, that's never a very encouraging sign to me.  We parked, and I ran half a block to my parents' house in my houseshoes (which is not an easy thing to do).  As I approached, I noticed that while there were three firetrucks and two police vehicles, they were all kind of standing around, no flames were shooting up toward the sky, and the garage door was open.  After I got to talk to someone who told me it was all under control, I had the realization that even when I got there, there was nothing I could do.

I had no fire training.  I couldn't stop the fire with my hands.  I couldn't talk the fire department into doing a better job.  All I could do was stand by and watch.  Then, I thought I should call my mom and tell her everything was ok.

As stood in the middle of the street looking at the devastation that could have been I realize how good God is, and my eyes welled up with tears.  In that moment, I realized how I so often want to save the day.  In my very core, I feel like it's my job to protect my friends, my husband, and my parents. All 5' 1" of me goes storming hell with a water a pistol, unprepared to fight the battle.

That's hard for me to write.  I am always prepared.  I make lists.  I mentally prepare for situations.  I take charge.  I am strong.  I don't give up.  I have grit.  Yet somehow, every time I think it's my job to protect, I meet my end.  I truly experience something beyond my capabilities.

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I can't fight a fire without training.

I can't mend a friendship when I don't even know half the parties involved.

I can't save my friends going through divorces when one of them doesn't want to try.

I can't change people's hearts.

I can't truly save or protect heal.

I was never meant to be to someone that only God can be.  He is Provider, Protector, Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Lover of our Souls.  He melts hearts of stone. He performs miracles that seem impossible to this scientifically explained away world.  He saves us from the pit and makes a way when there seems to be none.  He alone is worthy of our praise, and yet I am so quick to forget.  I forget I am just an instrument, a vessel God chooses to use for his glory, and I try to be him.

God can fathom the infinite.  God sees the whole picture.

I can only fathom the finite.  I only see a pixel at a time.

I have a God-complex.  But I'm working on it.  He alone is worthy of glory and honor and praise, and as far as it is for me to continuously remember that, I stood in the middle of the street last Thursday knowing, "Worthy is the Lamb."

keagan.pngAn Amarillo native, Keagan grew up teaching and preaching at her Barbies and baby dolls. She graduated from Randall High School in 2009, and moved up the street to West Texas A&M University to pursue a degree in Communication Studies. She met her precious husband Levi, and after graduating from college, they both taught high school. Keagan taught Speech & Debate for two years, and then the Lord began to call her away to become a Christian communicator and teacher of the Word to more than just Barbies and baby dolls. Keagan and Levi now live in Canyon with their two puppies. Please check out her blog here! I am super excited about this post because it directly addresses much of what Helicopter Mom is about... what perfect timing! Thanks sister! ~B

In Need of More ~ A guest post by Lindsey Gibson

Frantically, I dig through my purse looking for lunch money I had forgotten to give. Impatiently I fuss,”Who put all of this in here?”  “Why can’t you remind me sooner? “ “I’m sick of this! I can’t do this! You’ll just have to go without,” as the contents of my purse are tossed everywhere. Mind you, all of this taking place in the school drop off area, while cars wait behind us. They, my children, have no other choice but to exit. The door slammed shut, and the example of love and patience departed as well. Frustrated, I grit my teeth and proclaim, “I cannot do this! I cannot do this, anymore! I hate my stupid brain, why can’t I get it together?” I look down at the heaped mess in the seat and scan evidence of an apparent struggle, while the hot darts of defeat are set and ready to fire. I blew it, again!

Fear and heaviness sink on my shoulders as changes swirl around our family, and the simple tasks seem huge in the midst of the uncomfortable stretching place we are wading. With resolve, I come to terms, once again, that I DO NOT have it together. It’s obvious that achieving whatever picture I’ve painted of what “together” looks like is forever out of reach.

Lately, it takes all energy to get out of the house in the morning, and one setback can set the mood for the rest of the ride.

I sent my kids to school without money to eat. Check.

I let them see me frantic and frustrated. Check.

I mumble, “I’m, obviously, in need of more…”Sleep? Medication? Quiet Time? People to do more?

With defeat, I pray…

“Lord, I’m sorry, I’m sorry I lost it. I want to have it together, but the more I try, the more it crumbles. I want to be a good wife and mother. I want to be all you want me to be. Surely, you won’t fulfill all in our lives, if handling such minimal tasks like facing the pressure of morning mother hood and car line in such a horrible way."

I confess, I. AM NEEDY!......I mean, the disgustingly and clingy needy….For more of HIM!

As I prayed and pondered a calm assurance from the Holy Spirit flooded my frustrated  and fearful heart. With a gentle reminder, in the way he does, I realized that I am, undoubtedly, in need of more…..GRACE.

What is it? How do I get it?

Hebrews 4:16 (NASB), tells us,"Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." At all times, we are welcomed and encouraged by right and privilege to boldly cry out, openly and without fear, to our Heavenly Father. YES, he is God! YES, he is all-knowing and powerful, but his ear turns to the cry of his sons and daughters.

It was much harder before the cross, but through Jesus, it is, according to, Colossians 1:21-22, "And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His (Jesus) fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him(God the Father) holy and blameless and beyond reproach." Furthermore, Hebrews 10:19 (NASB) tells us, "Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…"

Out of mercy, he lowers the kindness rope to rescue us out of our miserable and muddied mess, to bathe us in his grace, which is joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, love and favor. In other words, he loves us despite our mud pie making ways. Gosh, we are such Daddy’s girls, aren’t we? I mean, being adored despite thick sludge is quite amazing, and as we shower in his grace, presence, and word, we are strengthened and refreshed. We, then, can move forward in faith and knowledge, therefore, gain the ability to fulfill our purpose by his design.

As the realization pricked my overwhelmed heart, I began to exhale. I don’t have to do it alone and everything I need is free for the taking, My first step is to ask ,with all assurance that what I lack is made abundant and available out of pure love, and he gladly takes it from there.

The move of surrender is a mighty one!  Wow! Why do we make it so hard? Our wish may be to please him with our efforts, actions, and performance, but truly the greatest step is one of surrender.

He wont take what we still hold, but gladly accepts what we give. 

 

Lindsey's blog can be found here. She is a Jesus Lovin', Vintage Treasure Huntin',Turquoise Adorin', Tennessee girl! If you spend any time on her website, you'll find yourself wanting to buy all her dresses (I'm kinda jealous of her wardrobe, not gonna lie!) Please take a moment and drop by it! Her passion is to teach, write, and speak into the lives of women the unfailing Love of Jesus Christ, and ignite a passion for God's word within their hearts. She is a wife, mother, and nurse. Lindsey, thank you for your heart of flesh and sharing with me and my readers today! ~B

Overcoming Fear ~ A guest post by Hilary Cobb

As a counselor, I often work with people who are fearful. Anxiety is prevalent in our culture.We live in difficult and scary times. Mass shootings, cancer in everyone from children to adults, crime. Even in our day-to-day lives, we struggle with fear. Fear of rejection, fear of financial insecurity, fear of being “not good enough,” fear of being hurt by those we love. Fear of not having the perfect home or children, or being judged by others.

 It is easy to say (somewhat callously) to others, “well, just don’t worry about it. God’s got this.” There have been many times in my life where I’ve been anxious or scared, and just kept praying fearfully, “God, help me to stop being anxious. I know You’ve got this.” I often found that after praying, I didn’t feel better. I would immediately start thinking, “But what if He doesn’t have this? What if He doesn’t provide? What if I’ve sinned too much?”
 I’ve realized over the past few years that this type of fearful, doubting prayer wasn’t healthy. We often talk about “substitute addiction” in counseling. It is the idea that some people will effectively “swap” addictions or unhealthy behaviors. They give up alcohol, but replace it with another, equally unhealthy behavior (excessive exercise, excessive spending, prescription drug abuse). I noticed that I had simply replaced my unhealthy anxiety about money and the future with an unhealthy, anxious view of God! I spent just as much time worrying that God wouldn’t help me or follow through as I had spent worrying about my everyday fears.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned that instead of swapping anxieties, you have to instead substitute a healthy behavior for an unhealthy one. The opposite of anxiety is not frantic, anxious praying! Instead, it is a strong, unshakable confidence in God’s love and provision. It is not simply “stop being scared,” but instead, it is telling myself that I don’t need to be scared because God’s love involves it all: grace, forgiveness, strength and provision. There have been great verses to get me through fearful moments, and I hope these are comforting to those of you who are scared.
 
Philippians 4:19 (ESV) says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus himself told the disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?...Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:25-27, 31-32 ESV)
In spite of these comforting verses, I used to speak them from a place of fear. After reading Philippians 4:19, I would worry endlessly: what if God doesn’t provide for me? Am I too sinful for His blessings? I felt like the little boy from Oliver Twist, coming up to the big scary cook asking, “Please sir, I want some more,” fearful and trembling the whole time.
However, as I think of God’s work in my life, and the lives of those around me, I realize that I shouldn’t come to Him in fear. Instead, I need to come confidently to Him and trust Him with everything. My life verse over the past two years has been Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua was given a large, daunting task and I’m sure he was scared. I love that God didn’t simply say, “Hey, calm down, chill out, stop worrying, get over it.”
Instead, He commands Joshua to be strong and courageous before He tells Joshua to not be frightened. We need to stop seeking God from a place of fear. Instead, we need to seek Him and allow Him to help strengthen us. Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) says, “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.”
We need to pray and live courageously, knowing that we come to our Father as warriors, as strong women, as the children of God, and that He will strengthen and help us because He loves us!  It is more than Him simply telling me to stop being dismayed. God doesn’t want us to just stop being scared, He also wants to strengthen and uphold us. He doesn't want us just to shush our fears, and hope they stop bothering us. Instead, we can be strong, confident and overcome our fears.
Over the years, I’ve seen Christians who embody this. Christians going through intense trials and difficulties courageously. They aren’t fearful because they are confident in God’s plan for their lives. They inspire me, and in those moments, where I feel myself praying with fear, I remind myself that God doesn’t want me to feel scared. He wants me to be strong and courageous, even when I’m unsure how He will remedy the situation.
If you are fearful, seek His promises through His Word, and come to Him in confidence. Come to Him knowing that He will provide and He will strengthen you because He loves you enough to want you to live without fear. You are a child of God. Be courageous, my friends. ~Hilary
You can find Hilary and her blog at www.blessedbyhislove.com.  She also has a great FB page here! Please take a moment to check it out! Hilary Cobb is a born-and-raised California-girl who now lives in beautiful Idaho. She lives with her amazing husband and their two young children. Hilary works as a therapist part-time, doing counseling with children, adults and couples. She is also the Family Ministries Director for her church and speaks at events and schools. When she has some downtime, she loves coffee, running and crochet! Her life verse is Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” and she is grateful that God has allowed her to serve Him throughout her life. Thank you sister for letting me help share your thoughts! ~B

The God-Strand ~ A book review of A Wife's Secret to Happiness

Hi all, amidst this crazy book launch for Helicopter Mom, this particular book by Jen Weaver called A Wife's Secret to Happiness had been coming across multiple paths of mine on multiple occasions. I had passed by it with little thought until a fellow LIT sister posted a book review of it... and then I was intrigued because there was a writing contest involved with some incredible prizes that this new author started dreaming about. Soooo, I decided to give it a read.

I'm glad I did!

I won't lie... I generally grow super bored with books about marriage. I find them redundant and often, despite their attempts not to be, a bit self-righteous. I am the worst marriage-book-reader ever. I admit it. I am very happy in my marriage, we are very intentional about our relationship, etc. etc. (more on how hard that battle was in a bit). I don't see or feel the need for marriage advice very often (now who's self-righteous? <insert eye-roll emoji and hashtag something about 'pot calling the kettle black...>) And yet, God kept placing this book in my line of vision for several weeks- so I decided to order it up (not easily done as Amazon was out of them and I ended up buying used from the UK... what an amazing problem that must be to have....!)

Anyhoo, so I got the book , read it and.... it's good. I won't lie and say it's the best book on marriage that I've ever read, but it is chalk-full of usable and scripturally sound principles for wives. I will say, with this being the first book by Jen Weaver that I've ever read, I found her writing style very easy to read, funny, real, and convicting in the right spots. I didn't find it stilted or goody-two-shoes either which was helpful for my generally critical reading of self-help books (again, I promise I'm working on this! lol.) Her chapters highlighting the blessings that wives can walk in are solid and Biblical- no wife can go wrong in following them. Overall it's a good book and one I would recommend... especially for young wives and those newer to the faith.

The chapter that I wanted to talk about here, however, happens to be her opening chapter- The Blessing of Three Strands. This chapter spoke to me from a very real place that I wanted to share with you today. For those who have read or heard my testimony, you will remember that Gabe and I have had more than our fair share of trouble in our marriage. With God's help we've come through 2 affairs and a porn addiction (for the complete story in all it's horrendous glory, click here!) I say 'with God's help' loosely... in reality, it was more like with His complete holding-us-together through it. As Jen writes, "What is a third strand? You've no doubt heard of this illustrious fiber. A bond between two people may shatter with ease but 'a cord of three strands is not quickly broken'.... My vows weren't foolish promises, although in challenging moments I question my sanity. God's third strand compensates for where we lack.... The threads of His tapestry hold our marriage together when everything else unravels."  This is just so true!

But I would argue even further... God's strand is literally the only one... the most important one... the life-giving one. We as fallible and horribly sinful people (yes, us Christians included!) have zero to bring to the marriage table, the marriage bed, or the marriage covenant except brokenness, baggage, a past of varying degrees of hurt, and this innane desire to 'make it work.' God is the absolute glue that holds marriages together. Literally. I can attest personally that during those incredibly rough patches in our marriage, both of our strands, Gabe's and mine.... were not only not strong but in some cases were not even present. They simply were not there! At best they were frayed... but (especially for me) many times they had been cut- the connection was severed completely.

Only He remained faithful in our marriage. Only He kept His promise, His vows.

God's strand remained. By His grace and abundant mercy to us, He literally held together our lives, our marriage, our family on several occasions. I am grateful in ways that I can't even begin to describe.

The idea of the 3-strand cord that Jen speaks of is so vitally important in a marriage. Many places in A Wife's Secret to Happiness she writes about lost dreams, impaired realities, unequally yoked marriages, and wives who long for a better setup. I get it. So does Jen. It was wise of her (and planned I'm sure) to start the book with the idea of the God-component thoroughly interwoven within our marriage from the onset. Without that strand, the God-strand, we have NO hope of this marriage-thing having any meaning or worth at all. It must be there to keep it together when we can't, it must be there to strengthen the bonds during rough patches outside the marriage, it must be there to refine us within the marriage to make us a more perfect example of Christ and the Church. The God-strand must be center!

If you have ever or are currently struggling in your marriage, please know there is hope and healing available. Gabe and I are living, breathing, healed, and whole examples of Christ's ability to remake and renew a marriage that was not only on the rocks... but had literally just sunk to the depths of the ocean. It was dead. But it (and we) are alive again! It's possible! Please, please let me know if you want prayer or guidance! God is awfully big, and pretty amazing at being the Great Healer. Make Him the center strand of your marriage rope and I promise if you cling to Him, that unbreakable thread, that he will do marvelous things in your marriage.

Please check out Jen's book today! You can find it on Amazon here (it is back in stock!) or at thejenweaver.com

 

Thanks for reading today, if you were touched, if I may be so bold to ask please take a moment and vote for this post here. My entry will be listed there at the bottom of the page... you can vote as many times as you'd like. I really would appreciate it very much!! Thanks in advance!

UPDATE: Thanks to ALL of you who voted! The contest is closed now and I took 5th place! Yay! I'm super excited about the prizes and I very much appreciate all your votes and support. 

The Day He Changed My Name ~ A guest post by Lindsay O'Connor

At the beginning of the year, on the morning of my birthday, I woke up thinking that I wanted/needed a scripture verse for the year. I read the verse of the day on my Bible app, which was John 14:27:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.

Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid. 

I felt strongly that God was giving me the word "peace" for the year. Of course, because I'm me, after briefly thinking that that sounded nice, I began to worry that if I'm going to be learning about peace this year, I can probably expect to experience some significant adversity. I hated to be pessimistic, but it seemed likely.

Not long ago, some friends introduced me to the Enneagram, which describes 9 interconnected personality types. I listened to a series of lectures about each of the 9 personality types. As I listened to the very last one, from the moment the teacher started speaking, I heard her describing me. She said that their greatest sin is fear and is often manifested as anxiety. She said that they always see the worst thing that can happen in any situation, and that even when things are going well, they worry about what could go wrong.

She said many things, but what I heard over everything else was that fear and anxiety are such a prominent backdrop, people with this personality type are often not even aware of it and don't realize that not everyone else experiences the world this way. I have always known that I'm an anxious person and have worked hard the past few years (or perhaps I should say God has worked in me) to cope better with my anxiety. Hearing that it is at the core of who I am was like looking into a mirror and being forced to face what I knew was there but didn't want to see. I could not understand how this could be the core of my identity because I knew that that was not what God wanted for me, but I also knew it was true. I was up all night, upset, wrestling with this truth. I knew that God had given me the word "peace" for the year, but I was confronted with the truth that I was completely wrapped up in fear and anxiety.

Shortly thereafter, I had the privilege of attending Beth Moore's Lit Conference for women in their 20's and 30's who believe they have been called by God to use a gift of teaching, speaking, and/or writing. It was an inspiring, challenging, exhausting 12 hour day, and I learned so much, but the most significant thing that happened was during the worship time at the end of the conference.

I was exhausted from a very full, emotional, day and was wondering where I should let my thoughts land at the close of it. As my mind was searching over all the things I had learned that day, I felt like God was telling me to set it all aside and just be with Him. Christine Caine got up as Christy Nockels continued leading worship and said that we (the women attending the conference) all knew that God was asking something of us, but that He wanted to ask us, "What can I do for you?"

I was shocked. I had been in such a mode of figuring out what He was asking of me, I could not believe He would ask what He could do for me. I thought about the "peace" scripture and prayed for deliverance from fear and anxiety. I considered the part that says, "I do not give to you as the world gives," and I thought about how the world gives: selfishly, expecting something in return, and temporarily, giving things that don't last. I thanked God that He does not give with selfish motives and doesn't seek to manipulate, and then I prayed that He would give me lasting, deep-down peace that would last for the rest of my life. I continued praying and felt like God was showing me that my peace would not come from knowing that everything is going to be ok but that it would come from knowing that He is with me. As the worship time and conference drew to a close, my friend and I left together, completely exhausted.

The next morning, as I began the drive home from Houston, I thought about how I should spend the luxurious four hours of alone time on the road. I took notice of a beautiful blue sky with picturesque white clouds, such a lovely sunny day for driving, and I relished the fact that I had all of this time alone to do whatever I wanted, with no one asking anything of me. I found myself thinking about how unusually good I felt. And then it hit me. "Did He do it? Did He answer my prayer and deliver me from anxiety?" Enjoying a lovely drive home and "feeling good" may seem unremarkable, but I felt an underlying contentment and calm that was different from the needlessly anxious hurry I had been in on the way there.

I have continued mulling this over in the weeks since my return from Houston and wondered what it meant. When I first got home, I felt like the background of anxiety was gone, that I no longer had a nervous energy buzzing around in the background of my mind, which was something I had not even been aware was there before.

I've been thinking about when Jacob wrestled with God in Genesis 32:22-32. As Jacob is wrestling with the angel of God, the angel asks Jacob for his name. When Jacob responds, it's as though he is finally owning up to the sin of deception that is at the core of his identity because "Jacob" means "supplanter*." He was a "heel grabber" from the moment he was born when he grabbed the heel of his older twin brother Esau, and he continued to demonstrate deceptive, conniving practices throughout his life up to this point of encounter with God. Thus, in giving his name, he confessed the sin of who he was at his core, and then God blessed him and renamed him "Israel," which means "God strives," "God rules," "God heals," or "he strives against God" (according to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary). After the encounter with God, he owned up to his mistakes and was reconciled to his brother.

I believe that on February 11, God gave me a new name. Before I could fully appreciate the healing and deliverance from anxiety, I had to be presented with the honest reality of who I was and how wrapped up in fear I had become. I was so upset to see and confess this about myself, but He already had a plan. As always, He used the truth lovingly and mercifully to begin the healing that He knew I needed. He had given me the scripture about peace, and then He took me to Houston and put me in a room with over 700 other women, under the leadership of an amazing panel including Beth Moore and others who have used their gifts to serve God. As we all worshipped Him together, He met with me intimately and asked what He could do for me after already placing in my heart the desire for the very thing He desired to do in me.

I want to share what He has done for me because I believe it brings Him glory, but I know that even if no one else ever knows my story, He is glorified in the act of healing me. He delights to heal His beloved children. I am thrilled to serve a God of restoration, who makes all things new, sees us both as who we are and who we will be, and who pursues us lovingly with a longing to work in us and conform us daily to His image. Before I had this healing encounter with the Lord, my name, my identity, was "Fear and Anxiety." I know that I will still struggle with feeling anxious at times, but I believe that it will no longer define me. Because of the work of Jesus on the cross and in my life personally, I have mercifully been given a new name. When the Lord looks at me and sees who He created me to be instead of who I have been, I believe He calls me "Peace."

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

*dictionary.com defines "supplant" as "to take the place of(another), as through force, scheming, strategy, or thelike."

 

 

Lindsay is always looking for ways to share about her experiences living on this earth as an imperfect human loved by a perfect God. Lindsay is a former elementary teacher, wife, mother of two, writer, and follower of Jesus. Her amazing blog, Rooted in Love is one of them. Lindsay, thank you for your heart and for sharing your story with us! -B