Don’t Let Your Praise Be Silenced

This Wednesday we have our night of worship coming up at our church. I’m really excited. First off, I love nights of worship. I don’t think there’s anything better or comparable to lifting up the name of Jesus and joining with other people in setting our eyes on someone who is so much bigger. With the Eagles winning the Superbowl [YAY EAGLES!] and the exuberance from its fans: fans literally stayed in the streets all night with excitement, joy, and straight up exhilaration at this amazing team finally taking the win. It was historic. You couldn’t stop them even if you tried!

Yet how many times do we allow hard times and difficult circumstances to silence our gratitude? I have been there! It’s so easy to express praise and thanks to God when everything is going well. We feel like our needs are being met, we feel like we are getting everything off our checklist. We look around and see blessing upon blessing.

But what happens when everything is ripped out from under you? What happens when you lose someone that you love? When you or someone you know is suddenly diagnosed with cancer? When you lose your job? When life just doesn’t seem fair? What’s your response?

For a long time, I would allow circumstances to dictate my response to God. If things were going my way, I could get my praise on at the drop of a hat. It was sooo easy to express gratitude. My life plan was going exactly how I wanted it to go. Graduated from college, married to my high school sweetheart, first home purchase, new job: life is perfect. But then came the next phase in my life plan: babies. Then came something unexpected we had to deal with: infertility. IVF. Shots. Appointments. Pregnant. Not pregnant. Preemie babies. Sick babies. Job loss. To curse God or to praise Him?

Every day we are faced with an opportunity to choose praise. I’ve made it a life commitment to choose praise even when it hurts or when it’s hard and I hope you’ll do the same. It will change your life.

Why My Praise Can’t Be Silenced

1. I know what God has done for me.

Jesus laid His entire life down for me. That alone is enough for me to have a praise break! When you think about who He is: that’s enough to have a dance party! Now add to it and start thinking about all of the ways He’s shown His faithfulness in your life. I’ve written about the power of REMEMBERING WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR YOU! REMEMBER. 

2. I know it’s a weapon.

Praise makes the devil mad. Darkness trembles at the name of Jesus. When we choose worship in the face of horrible circumstances, we are saying we know that God is in control! That He is unchanging! Here’s what the bible has to say about it:

‘We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. ‘ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 

3. praise takes the focus off of me and onto god.

The world does NOT revolve around us. Contrary to what culture dictates to us. There’s something about worship. When you worship and truly engage, you are taking the focus off of yourself and onto someone who is bigger, greater, higher. Jesus. The Bible tells us that we can lay down our burdens and all of the things that make us feel so heavy. It can be challenges of work, sickness, pain, sadness. Jesus calls us to Him and tells us:

‘“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 28:30

I just want to encourage someone today. Maybe you feel like your fighting a battle, you’re tired, worn out, weary. This is NOT the time to shrink back. This is the time to stand strong in who God is and in His mighty power. This is an opportunity to choose praise and to press on. To keep fighting. To keep declaring who God is in the midst of the impossible.

I love you all so much, faithful readers. My heart is for you and for you to experience the working power of God in every aspect of Your life. If you are a local, I would love for you to join me for our night of worship tomorrow at 7 pm! You can check out all the details here. 

How will you choose to fight your battles?

 

How to Avoid Ministry “Burnout”

How to Avoid Ministry Burnout

Have you ever felt burned out doing ministry?

I’m a Pastor’s kid. Being involved in ministry from a young age through teen years and into my adult years, I feel like I’ve seen so much, both good and bad. I’m not a seasoned veteran, yet, I still feel like I can offer some words on this subject. My goal here is to encourage anyone who feels like they are burned out and want to quit. Why? Because I’ve been there myself! There are times I’ve wanted to run to the other end of the earth and just live under a rock for awhile avoiding people, ministry, and the responsibilities that come with leading.

I have watched families in ministry bloom and blossom. I have watched and experienced the toll that ministry can also take on a family if there are no boundaries in place. If you don’t stay close to God’s heart and cling to HIM, it can chew you up and spit you out. It can leave you broken and your family broken. I believe that there are practical things that you can do to protect yourself from ministry burnout and I’m going to share a few things I think work. These are things I’ve learned and have also OBSERVED from people I truly respect and admire!

how to avoid ministry burnout:

Remember the why.

Remember why you are in ministry in the first place. I hope that if you’re in ministry it’s because you feel like God has called you to do it. Whether that’s lead worship, lead children in children’s ministry, work on the logistical aspects of the church- go back to your why. WHY are you here? How did you end up here?

‘But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.’ 1 Peter 2:9

For me, I know that God has called me to lead. Whether that’s through worship or leading people, I know in the bottom of my soul, that I’ve been called to do that and it’s what God wants me to do. How do I know that? It’s what I’m passionate about. When I feel like running away, I remember the why. God’s called me to do it.

Remember the who.

This is the most important! Ministry for the sake of ministry is utterly POINTLESS! I am involved in ministry because I love Jesus. Because I love Jesus, I love people. Because I love people, I want to see people thrive in their relationships with Him. As a result, I can always go back to the fact that everything and anything I do is for the glory of God. Not man and not for myself. I’m not interested in building the name of Natalie.

‘So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. ‘ 1 Corinthians 10:31 

And another favorite:’

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.’ Acts of the Apostles 20:24 

Ministry is about Jesus. If ever you get to a point where it’s not about Jesus, I daresay run.

Create healthy boundaries.

This actually ties into a topic of rest. What I mean by this is create a perimeter around yourself. Don’t allow people access to you at every moment of the day. I don’t mean ignore an emergency, a death in the family, a serious issue: what I do mean is if it can wait then let it wait. An article I read here explains it even better than I can.

Prioritize your family.

This is where so many people and families get it so horribly wrong. They prioritize ministry FIRST over their family and over everything. If you can’t do ministry with your family, don’t sacrifice your family trying to minister to the world while they’re dying. My greatest regret would be that I poured my entire life out for others but neglected those closest to me (Jose, Micah, Josiah) and I’m determined not to live like that. I’ve experienced the effects of this and it’s not worth the amount of devastation that it leaves behind. Trust me!

But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers. – 1 Timothy 5:8

Prioritizing your family means that you show your family that they are important and valued. Time with them is important. Set aside a specific day of the week that’s considered “sacred” family time. This means that nothing and no one interrupts it.

Prioritize times of rest.

This one is essential. Yet this is one of the top things that are neglected. Without rest, you will burn out quickly. The Bible often talks about the Sabbath, a day where people would take out time for rest and reverence to the Lord. I think it’s important that as people involved in ministry, you prioritize periods of rest so that you DO have something to offer the world. It’s important to know that people will take all that you are willing to give them until you are dry. It’s not their intention but it’s part of human nature. Unless you make rest a time of importance and schedule it into your busy schedule, you will feel dry, empty, and flat out TIRED.

Mark 6:31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

I am a big fan of getaways, small or big. If I have a break as a teacher and finances allow it, I always try to plan a 2-3 getaway where we can actually remove ourselves from our surroundings and take time together as a family. Times of rest don’t have to be dramatic and should be regular. Carve it into your day, week, or month. Find a way to include it in there.

Surround yourself with the right people.

YOU ARE WHO YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH. Show me a man’s friend’s and I’ll show you who he is. These are sayings and cliches that you’ve heard before. The Bible puts it this way:

‘Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” ‘ 1 Corinthians 15:33 

When you are involved in ministry, people are watching you. There are many who are watching to see if or when you will mess up. Not everyone is cheering you on. It’s so important to make sure that you spend time with the right people. People who are toxic or are not a good friend will drain more life away from you. They will leave you burned out with nothing left to give. Protect yourself from that. Find people who will speak life when you feel like death. People who will bring out the gold you have within you.

Have mentors.

If you can connect with someone who has done ministry well, connect with them and learn from them. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? Listen to their stories and examples of success, failure, and how to do better. I personally love to talk to people who I admire who have a family they love, have a great marriage, and have a ministry that’s thriving and have LONGEVITY. Time is a great teacher.  Learn from the mistakes of others and the victories and use it to help veer you on the right path.

Most importantly, Prioritize your time with God. doing ministry does not equal spending time with God.

I think sometimes we equate being busy for God as an equivalent to actually spending time with God. THIS DOESN’T SUBSTITUTE YOUR ACTUAL TIME WITH THE LORD. You will quickly burn out if you are not connected to The Father.

‘But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. And they will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.’ Isaiah 40:28-31 

Those that trust in God find NEW STRENGTH. They run and don’t get tired! If you get anything from this post, this is the most important thing. Trust in the Lord, rest in Him, and He will strengthen you so that you can keep running the race with joy.

Thanks for reading along! Do you feel like you’re burned out and ready to throw in the towel? Find rest, take time to seek and pray, and continue to fight the good fight of faith.

How to Avoid Ministry Burnout

The Power of Community

It’s the night before church. As I’m sitting here thinking about how exciting it is to attend church and be encouraged with people who love Jesus, I am reminded of how many times I’ve heard the phrase: “I don’t need to go to church. I can have church on my own in my living room.” Yes, we are the church and the body of Christ. You can connect with the Lord anywhere, but biblically speaking it’s so essential to gather with other people who love Jesus and connect. I thought it would be great to write a post that focuses on the WHY when it comes to church and in general, the power in community.

No man is an island. At least, no man should be an island. As humans, we are wired to be people of connection and intimacy. Yet, do you know how many times in my life I’ve heard people say they don’t need anyone or don’t like to be close to anyone? Heck, when I am down in the dumps and going through something, my first fleshly tendency is to isolate myself from others. In the instances I’ve done that, I’ve NEVER thrived or done well. Do you wonder why that is? Read on.

Right from the opening scene in the Bible, the Lord recognizes that it’s not good for man to be alone and on His own. He sees this and decides to make a companion for Adam. Hi there Eve!

Then the Lord God said, “I see that it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make the companion he needs, one just right for him.” Genesis 2:18
In the New Testament, we see multiple examples of community and how much power there was when people got together. It’s ALL OVER ACTS!
“And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity —” Acts  2:44-46 
There are so many examples of how important it was to be with other people, to encourage, to uplift, to share with one another.

Reasons why Community is so important:

1. it’s good for you.

The two verse above tell you how important God thought it was and still is: connecting with others is good for us!  So good that God gave Adam someone because He knew it wasn’t good for him to be a lone ranger. So good for us that in Acts, it’s all we see. People together, spurring each other on. They didn’t just throw around the phrase, “let’s do life together.” They actually did life together! What does that look like today? It means connecting with someone outside of Sunday services and it may feel awkward or strange, uncomfortable. It might mean putting yourself out there, not sure what you will get in return. If you are a person who is used to flying solo, I encourage you to step out of the comfort zone and try to connect with someone who will inspire you to be better.

2. it helps you avoid doing stupid things because it gives you accountability.

Accountability. What does that mean? It means someone can call you out on the carpet for how much of a mess you’re being and vice versa. I think this is good to have even outside of your spouse. Yes, I call my husband out all the time and he does the same for me when I need it! Outside of each other, we have pastors and Godly leadership who will let us know about ourselves. This makes us better people and helps us avoid stupid mistakes!

Proverbs 18:1 One who has isolated himself seeks his own desires; he rejects all sound judgment.

People who cut themselves off from others are looking after what they want and don’t want to listen to other people. In easy terms, it means you’re being selfish. I have found myself in this trap at times! It’s that phrase “I’m gonna do me! I’m pursuing what I want and forget about everyone else…pursuing my dreams…” you’ll basically hear a lot of me me me and my my my with something missing. That something missing is: What does God actually want from you? When you are tempted to say, “FORGET YOU WORLD!” be reminded of Proverbs. It’ll reel you back in.

3. it helps you slay life.

The verse that Jose and I used at our wedding was this one:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9,12 

Having people behind you will strengthen you and help you succeed! If you’re trying to do everything on you’re own, you become really vulnerable to attacks: spiritually, emotionally, and in so many ways.

4. it’s encouraging.

Having a solid group of awesome people is encouraging because you are constantly inspiring one another to do better and be better. Look at what it says in Hebrews: DON’T STOP MEETING TOGETHER AND ENCOURAGING EACH OTHER! Keep at it! Atta girl! Or boy! In fact, let’s think about how we can motivate one another to love each other and to do great things. I can dig it!

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 

5. you have someone else to carry your burdens.

This is probably my absolute favorite part when it comes to community: people who will not only walk alongside you when stuff hits the fan but will actually help you carry that heavy load. In times of my life when I felt like I was riding full force on the struggle bus and things in my life were hard, messy, and flat-out awful, I knew I could carry some of my burdens to dear friends who would not just say, “It’s going to be okay” but would actually bear that burden with me. They would cry with me. Sit with me in silence. Laugh with me. I could share it with them knowing that they would pray for me and help me. This has made all the difference in so many of my life circumstances.

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” Galatians 6:2-3 

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Can you see the power in COMMUNITY?! Can you see why it’s important to get together with others and actually do life with them? Yes, the phrase can be cheesy but I think it’s important.

When people see me at this stage in my life, I hope they see someone who not only loves community but enjoys bringing others together. For me, this is so important, because I know what it was like to isolate myself when things weren’t going great in my life. It was easy to want to be around people when things were amazing! Who doesn’t want to share when life is fabulous? But when I was going through, my first instinct was to isolate myself and to revert to my introvert ways. I am actually a natural introvert. Ask my parents, look through my childhood pictures. Now though, I like talking and getting to know people. I will ask you questions others are probably afraid to ask.

There is so much amazingness in community and people and if you aren’t experiencing that in full force, pray about it and ask God to help you. Reach out to others. Give people lots of grace. Find a church. Plug in. Find your people. And connect.

 

 

How to Trust God When It’s Hard

Have you ever been in a season of your life where your future seems so uncertain? You are trying to look a few steps ahead but can’t even see what’s in front of you? You feel anxiety creeping in, doubt screaming in your face, and fear threatening to consume you? Maybe you find yourself in a situation you simply don’t understand? How do we trust God when it seems hard?

I’ve been there! I’ve said the words, “God – I want to trust You. But it’s hard.” Yet, I recognize that true peace and freedom is ONLY found in complete and total surrender and trust to God. And it’s not hard.

The question is – how do we do it? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Commit to prayer.

Coming to a place of trusting in God starts with talking to God. Make this a part of your every day life by inviting God into every aspect of Your life. I used to run to my comfort zones when I was stressed out about things and made turning to God secondary, or sometimes the last resort. It was “easier” to distract myself with other things – mindless entertainment, hanging out with friends, shopping, etc. Yet, the end result of that was pain for me because it always left me desensitized and apathetic.

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. – 1 Chronicles 16:11

Commit to prayer when you feel like running or turning the television on. Have an honest and open conversation with God – He hears you, He cares.

2. Commit to His word.

Commit to reading the Bible every day. Replace checking your Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and all of the like with opening the YouVersion Bible App. The more you do it, the more habitual it will become. Seek HIS truth. If you are in a place where you need answers or guidance, there is no more solid place than the Word of God to start with.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. – Psalm 119:105

God’s word will give You clear direction and guidance.

3. Commit to spending time with people who will build your faith.

I learned this the hard way. The worst thing you can do when you are struggling with trusting God is to surround yourself with people who are in a similar boat. NO.

Don’t fool yourselves. Bad friends will destroy you. – 1 Corinthians 14:33

Surround yourself with people who will speak life, encouragement, and faith over you. Spend time with people who will remind you of all that God has done in Your life. Go out for coffee for a friend who will pray WITH you and remind you of God’s wisdom and promises.

4. Commit to remembering what God’s done in Your life.

I recently heard in a message, “Sometimes you need to recount the victories.” It resonated in my heart because it’s something that God reminded me I need to do! Take a minute to remember all of the amazing things God has done in your life. You’re still breathing aren’t you? There are times where we look back and can so clearly see God’s hand of protection over us, perhaps we remember His clear guidance or direction on a topic. REMEMBER these things. The same God that’s taken care of you then, is the same God watching over you now.

Our Lord, I will remember the things you have done, your miracles of long ago. – Psalm 77:11

Sometimes I read through my prayer journal and am amazed at how many prayer’s God has answered. It’s encouraging!

5. Commit to worship.

I was listening to a worship song and the singer said, “Don’t let fear steal your song.” Those words landed on my heart with a thud. I was so worried and letting anxiety consume me, that I didi just that. I stopped worshipping God and started focusing on my problems. When we worship God, we take the focus off of ourselves and onto HIM. We take the focus off of our problems and worries and onto HIM. I don’t know what worship looks like to you, but to me it’s putting on some worship songs and sitting on the floor, listening, praying, singing…walking around. I look at these songs as more than just a song – declarations they are. Of my total trust in Him.

6. Commit to surrender.

This means that we let go our fears and worries and we literally give them over to God completely. We recognize that we have no control and God has all of the control. We recognize that at the end of it all, God opens the right doors and closes the wrong ones.

Surrender to God All-Powerful! You will find peace and prosperity. – Job 22:21

A surrendered life is a peaceful life.

7. Commit to trusting Him.

Wait, is this a trick  Nope. It’s not. How do we trust God when it’s hard? We trust Him. Even when it’s hard. We just DO. We know He holds our time in His hands, our life in His hands. We know that if he cares about the birds, how much more does He care about us? We know we can trust Him. So trust Him.

Thanks for stopping by and reading a topic that’s been so close to my heart lately because God has been working with ME in this area. Until next time!

 

 

 

Why Giving is SO Important

livinggenerouslygraphicLately, God has been teaching me about giving. Through different people, through His word, through different sermons, through hard life lessons.

The conclusion that I’ve come to is – GIVING IS ALWAYS GOOD. GIVING IS RIGHT. BE GENEROUS.

We reap what we sow. It’s a biblical principle. Check it out:

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. – 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Why should we give? Why should we live lives of generosity?

  1. The bible tells us to.
  2. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.
  3. God is able to bless us and make sure we have all we need. *Note that needs and wants are different!*

We DO NOT give because…

  1. We want something in return.
  2. We feel forced and want to check it off the list.
  3. We want the pride, affirmation, accolades that come with giving.

We don’t give with an attitude either. “Okay, God. I’ve given so this is what I want…” God is not a genie. If you want a genie, check out Aladdin. We give to others because God has given to us so freely. First, we have salvation and it’s something completely FREE. God loves us and we don’t have to earn His love. We can’t buy our way into heaven or into His promises. But when we give, we are so richly blessed.

We should give AT ALL TIMES, even when it’s really hard!

But my spouse lost his job. We are really tight right now.

GIVE.

But I am single parent struggling to make ends meet.

GIVE.

But I’m going through a really hard time in life right now.

GIVE.

I’m speaking to this because I have been there. We have been in situations where we have been on one income. We have been in situations where we have watched the lives of our children flash before our eyes. We have been in situations where people have hurt us. Nonetheless, I have experienced the overflow of God’s blessings every single time without fail when we have been consistent in giving. We have always experienced his provision. We have never been without what we have needed.

Giving should flow from a heart that is willing and pure. If you are ever in a place or even a church where people are guilting/coercing/begging you into giving, RUN! It needs to come from a heart that wants to be generous because in the end, YOUR HEART IS WHAT MATTERS THE MOST. If you give with a crappy attitude, you might as well not give. I think motive matters greatly.

Can I give you examples of how God has provided for us through challenging times?

  1. When the boys were sick as preemies and I had to take a longer maternity leave without any disability, God used a blogger friend to supply a case of expensive formula Micah needed just when we ran out. Formula landed on my doorstep from TEXAS. During that time we also received random checks in the mail, hand me downs from others, even a check from the mortgage company. God took care of us.
  2. At the end of my school year, after my long maternity leave, I had a crazy check come in (by the thousands) that was completely unexpected to the point where I e-mailed my HR director asking her about it. She explained how it was rightfully mine, even though I couldn’t believe it! I don’t even remember her explanation, all I remember is being so grateful.
  3. When my husband left the only job he ever had for over ten years, God opened up a door for him with a job where he eventually became a real estate agent, which has been a huge blessing for our family.
  4. When my husband was in a sudden transition between brokerages, God used someone anonymous to supply us with a $500 grocery gift card and $250. This is all without us asking or even announcing it (our Pastor mentioned it at the end of a Sunday service, our church responded by being generous…anonymously! We are grateful to be part of this kind of church.)

HE HAS ALWAYS TAKEN CARE OF US WITHOUT FAIL. Everything I have I owe to Him. Therefore, I can give to others and live generously!

The Bible tells us this story of Jesus sitting down in the temple watching everyone give. All these rich people are throwing in tons of money. Then, all of a sudden, this widow comes up and she drops in two coins only worth a few cents. Jesus points her out and says, Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

This tells us Jesus isn’t impressed by a monetary amount. You can’t buy your way in. This woman gave from the depths of her heart because she literally gave all that she had. Jesus essentially says, “Hey guys! This widow here? She nailed it. She gets what it means to give.”

I want to be like her. I haven’t always lived generously, but I have come a long way and want to continue to grow in this.

Look out for part 2 – What Giving Looks Like, where you’ll find practical applications and ideas/thoughts on how to give. 

 

 

National Infertility Awareness Week!

Start ASking

Hi beautiful people! I have decided to share my blog with my friends, family, and people I know. For years I have blogged without sharing it with too many people that I knew in real life. This blog started in 2012 as a place I could write about my thoughts and share things I was scared to really say out loud when it came to our struggles with infertility. When I found out we had fertility issues, I didn’t feel like I could talk to a lot of people about it for different reasons. Plus, it’s not exactly easy dinner conversation: “Pass me the bread, oh yeah I’m having trouble having a baby…” What I DID feel like I could do was write about it. So that’s what I did. In blogging I found a really amazing community of people who were in the same shoes. A great deal who had made it to the other side and had given me hope. Some, who to this day, are still struggling to conceive. Ultimately, it ended up being an amazing outlet to share and to listen.

I want to share my blog because when I look back at where we were in 2012 and what we went through to have a family, all I can do is be filled with gratitude and awe at where we are today. And guess what? I take literally ZERO credit for it. It’s all God. Without Him, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Yes, we didn’t go through the typical process people go through to have a baby. I’m thankful for how far we have come in the medical world and through science. I’m grateful that God uses doctors, nurses, scientists, and all kinds of awesome people to make things happen. That’s just how good He is. So today what I want to offer others is this:

HOPE.

I share my blog because I believe there is hope for anyone who is dealing with infertility. Anyone who is walking this journey. It can be lonely, murky, unfamiliar, and altogether terrifying. I can tell you this – everything we went through shaped us and molded us in such a unique way. I learned to face fear head on. I learned not to be consumed with anxiety and worry. I learned that I had a choice, I could choose sorrow and depression OR I could choose hope and joy, even when it was seemingly impossible to do so. I thought it would be really cool to share my blog during National Infertility Awareness week.

This week is National Infertility Awareness week.

The definition of infertility is:

 …the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse (six months if the woman is over age 35) or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth. 

1 in 8 couples struggles with infertility. There is an excellent chance that someone around you is struggling with it or knows someone who is. It’s much more common than people realize.

The theme for National Infertility Awareness Week is #StartAsking. The foundation wants people to #StartAsking:

  • Employers for insurance coverage.
  • Your lawmakers and legislators to support issues important to the infertility community.
  • Friends and family to support you.
  • The media to cover infertility and the real challenges we all face.
  • Those who have resolved their infertility to stay involved.
  • OB/GYN or healthcare provider to talk about YOUR reproductive health.
  • For affordable care for treatment of a disease (all taken directly from resolve.org – edited).

I am going to encourage you to #StartPraying in addition to asking. Pray for your friends and family members who are walking through this. Encourage them. Let them know you are there for them. Pray for the wisdom to be there for them in a way that is helpful, encouraging, and uplifting.

And most importantly, hold on to hope.

 

Faith – Remaining Unshakable.

Unshakable

Lately God has been pressing the same message into my heart.

Be unshakable.

and…

Be immovable.

and…

STAND FIRM.

Though the cares of this world come to destroy us and to rob us our joy and faith, Jesus tells us to be unshakable in Him. It’s inevitable that trials will come our way. It’s a guarantee that at some point in our life, we’re going to face problems. Bad things WILL happen. Jesus himself guaranteed it when he said,

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:13

But here’s the thing. As followers of Jesus, we are ALWAYS on the winning side. We always win! That’s the thing in living a life of complete freedom, free of fear, free of anxiety, free of doubt, free of stress. We win. We have a hope. We have a promise of a life with Jesus FOREVER. Does it get any better than that? That’s enough to fill me with peace. That’s enough to kick fear right in the face. That’s enough to silence any doubts and starve any anxious thoughts that try to make a home in my mind. The Bible spells it out for me quite clearly,

“For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:3

When I decided to live for Jesus, I died to this life in the sense that the things of this world didn’t have a hold on me anymore. My real life is found hidden in Jesus.

“But the Lord is my fortress;my God is the mighty rock where I hide.” – Psalm 94:22

When our lives are hidden in Jesus, we find peace. We find shelter in His promises. We find a place of complete safety. This doesn’t mean that we hide from the world and bury our heads in the sand when awful things come our way. No, this means that we are NOT MOVED when these things happen because we are found in Jesus! Our life is hidden in Him and therefore, nothing that happens on this earth can shake us. We are founded on the Rock of our salvation. When you build something that’s on a rock, it has a strong foundation. It can’t be moved around when storms hit it. It’s consistent, steady, and will remain even after the storm has passed.

Jesus asks us to live a life that is solidly anchored on the rock so we are unshakeable, steadfast, and firm. We refuse to be moved because we know who we stand on.

How can you live this out in a practical way? Here are a few ideas:

  • Memorize key scriptures that will help you remain steadfast.
    • Bury yourself in the word. Maybe it’s a particular chapter that sticks out to you. Maybe it’s a certain verse. Read it to yourself again and again. Write it down in your prayer journal. Ask God to bring it to remembrance when you go through trials. Pray God’s word. Which brings me to the next point…
  • Pray God’s word.
    • When the trial comes, and it inevitable will, pray the promises of God over your life. The Bible says, “It is the same with my word.I send it out, and it always produces fruit.It will accomplish all I want it to,and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” – Isaiah 55:11.
    • When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert, He withstood by declaring the word of the Lord.
  • Don’t react the way you might want to. Refuse to.
    • The flesh part of us wants to react in a very, well, fleshly way. It’s our natural inclination as a human to panic, freak out, and think of the worst things! Trust me, this is coming from a professional freak-er out-er (God is continuing to work with me in this area, thank the Lord!), but we need to react in a way that honors God.
  • Remember that as believers, WE ALWAYS WIN.
    • The Bible reminds us that “… our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all… – 2 Corinthians 4:17
    • What we go through on this earth is temporary, fleeting, momentary. The pain doesn’t last forever. That’s a promise. What we go through on this earth is nothing compared to the eternal life we have in Jesus. Simply incomparable!

I write this to encourage others and for myself! Who doesn’t walk through trials? The question is – how will you handle it? Will you be someone who is moved by every wind that blows your way? Or will you be rooted and firm in Jesus? I choose Jesus.

What 28 taught me. Hello 29.

bonnie & Carole

Yesterday I officially turned 29. One step closer to 30. Most women dread getting older, but I don’t have a fear of that. I do like to take time and reflect on what I learned over the past year though. What did 28 teach me?

1. To have  a voice. 

As I get older, I find that I’m much more confident in speaking up and voicing how I feel, even if it’s uncomfortable for others. Being a mom, teacher, wife, and leader in my church have all played a part in developing my voice.

2. To unplug and plug into what really matters.

For me this was literal. I think I saw how attached I was to my electronics and how I was missing out on actually being present.

3. Serving others makes me happy and fulfilled.

I found that I enjoy serving, hosting, and giving even when I feel like I don’t have much to offer. I think I have learned to serve with my heart and to serve without wanting or expecting anything in return.

4. The world doesn’t revolve around me.

Humility is a lesson I’ve continued to be taught. I think it’s because it’s not something I’ve quite mastered yet. It’s humbling to recognize that there are things so much bigger than ourselves. It puts things into perspective.

5. Making assumptions will make you look like a fool. Especially because my assumptions are typically wrong.

When I make assumptions about people or situations, I’m almost always proven wrong. Its better to deal with reality than assumptions.

6. I am an awesome mom.

I am proud of the mother I’ve become. I know that I love my boys well and my parental instincts have never failed me so far.

7. My possessions don’t define me.

I’ve come to a point where I’ve realized that stuff is just, well…stuff. I’m more than the car I drive, the clothes I wear, and the latest toys my kids have or don’t have. The end.

8. How to learn to love my small home and see it as a blessing and not a curse.

I think it’s easy to compare with what others have and allow yourself to feel jealous or resentful about it. I have a small home that I use to bemoan. “One day when we get a bigger house…” but I’ve learned to enjoy the here and now and look at the fact that I am a homeowner. I have a mortgage that is cheaper than any rent I’ve ever paid. I have a house where people feel at home in and welcomed in. That’s winning in my book.

9. Not to cave in on something I strongly believe in, no matter how much opposition I face.

I think this year I’ve been in positions that have at times, backed me up against the wall. The easiest thing would have been to cave in because fighting for my convictions was the hard thing to do. But I did it and am proud of that. It’s made me stronger.

10. Dreaming is everything.

I’ve been pushed to dream bigger than I have ever dreamed before. I have been challenged to place no limits or restrictions on the dreams of my heart. By who? God. Myself. My husband. It is everything.

When I look back at 28, I am not filled with regret. I’m filled with contentment. Goodbye 28, hello 29.

The Importance of Retreating

The Importance

This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity and privilege to attend a retreat with my church. We arranged in advance for my mom to request some time off from work so she could watch the boys for us. The retreat was from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. We left Saturday at 3 pm and arrived home on Sunday at 3 pm. We traveled a few hours away to a mountainous area and had truly such an amazing time! I feel like we encountered God in a powerful way, experienced a time of rest, and were refreshed.

It was so nice being away from our normal responsibilities, from the tots, and from everything that demands our everyday attention. I missed the boys like CRAZY, but I firmly believe that happy parents equals healthy parents. This was such an essential time for us. It’s for this very reason that I believe it’s so important to take the time once in awhile to RETREAT. This can mean actually going away on a formal retreat or it can mean taking time to retreat from all of the demands and be still. Here are some reasons I think it’s essential:

  1. You need rest.

Jesus himself said,

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” -‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I don’t know about you, but there are so many times where I am going and going. Sometimes I am going on empty! If I’m not rested, spiritually, physically, and emotionally than I have absolutely NOTHING to offer other people. If my life is to serve others, I need to do it at my best. So do it. Don’t be afraid to rest. Don’t be afraid to make the time to rest. Carve it into your busy life. It’s essential. If you can actually go away, I highly recommend it. If it means planning for a sitter months in advance, working something out with your job, I can promise you taking a few days to go on a retreat is well worth it. It’s worth the sacrifice of time.

2. It’s important to be still in a world that encourages constant motion and busyness.

Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” -‭‭Psalms‬ ‭46:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act…” -‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Contrary to what the world screams in our faces, God whispers to us “Be still.” I take that as figurative AND literal. As in literally, BE STILL. It’s like if God is saying, “Would you just stop for a second? Could you stop for a moment and acknowledge who I am? Can you be still in my presence?”

This is God we are talking about. The answer is, or should be, yes. Stillness may cost us something. It might cost us our favorite television shows, our outings with our girlfriends, our “me” time. But we have everything to gain from stillness. Everything.

3. You will feel refreshed and encouraged.

One of the things I gained most from our retreat was feeling refreshed. Coming back from it, I felt like I could take on the world. After all, I had spent the weekend immersed in powerful teachings, worship, and His word without distractions.

I was encouraged by my leaders in so many ways. I was able to share some of my dreams that I hope to accomplish this year and what encouraged me the most was how much they believed in me. My Pastor’s wife especially. After I spoke with her, I felt like I could pretty much take over the world! I normally don’t have the opportunity to talk as much with the people at my church because I’m always rushing out on Sundays for the boys naps. I had such a great time.

Overall, if you think you can find a way to make it happen, I encourage you to find a way to go on a retreat! This can be a church retreat or simply a retreat where you have time alone with yourself or your spouse. Time to think, time to meditate, time alone. Time.

 

 

 

It’s time to dream again.

I’m dreaming again.

For me, God has really pounded this into my soul lately.

I think for a long time I stopped dreaming. I don’t know why. I stopped setting goals for myself and stopped dreaming about the things I wanted to accomplish in life. It’s no one else’s fault at all but my own. Somewhere along the way, I just stopped. To be honest, I think I just got caught up and distracted by fillers. And by fillers I mean, distracted with things that didn’t really matter. STUFF. Things.

And I feel like God is stirring up something in my soul: DREAM.

There is so much that I want to accomplish and I feel like I’m being compelled to set up specific long term and short term goals for myself (which will come at a later post!) but most importantly, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more inspired or more encouraged to dream bold, outlandish, seemingly impossible, wild things.

Do you remember how it was when you were a kid? When people asked you the infamous, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And with confidence you said things like, “Astronaut!” Or “Princess!” Or “Doctor!” Or whatever it was you wanted to be. You said it with every bit of conviction a child could have, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that you would be what you said you would be?

It’s like God is knocking at my heart and gently reminding me of all of the dreams I once had…and it’s amazing! There are no excuses that can stand in my way. I see a road of endless possibilities. For the next few days, I’ll be setting some specific long term and short term goals that will help me refocus and push me in the direction of accomplish these dreams.

I will be blogging soon about the process of setting up short term and long term goals and what that looks like. Just so this post doesn’t seem super ambiguous, I’ll share some of the dreams I’ve had at one point but put on the back burner. I’m reviving them…

  • Writing more.
  • Working with women – discipleship.
  • Mentoring young women.

And there’s about a billion more things. I’m going to be goal setting and diving my goals into specific types of goals (financial, spiritual, travel, personal, etc) and I plan on sharing what my process looks like. I’ll also be embarking on a cool journey in February too which I can’t wait to share about.

Needless to say, in 2016…I DREAM.