When It’s Not Easy To Get Pregnant

Maybe it’s your sister who’d give anything to see a positive pregnancy test or your best friend who is enduring the pain of another miscarriage. Maybe your coworker is staring down the barrel of another fertility treatment or perhaps it’s you trying to figure out why your first baby came so easily but somehow #2 seems beyond your reach. Chances are, all of us have felt the stinging disappointment and the ache of an empty womb. 

People’s fertile Facebook posts seem to fill your newsfeed, baby bumps are everywhere you turn and heaven help us all if it doesn’t make you want to whip your car into that “expectant mother’s” parking spot at Target just to spite them all. It’s such a lonely reoccurring struggle already, and then it is compounded by the fact that no one knows the right thing to say to soothe your chafing soul.

For my Joel and I there have been years filled with painful questions from well-meaning people. “Don’t ya’ll want to have children?” “Want to hold my baby? Maybe it’ll rub off on you!” And the ever-popular, well-meaning attempt at encouragement: “Well, now that you’ve adopted I just KNOW ya’ll will get pregnant.” Whomp, whomp.

During these years we’ve grieved in very different ways. Me, sometimes feeling like he wasn’t heartbroken enough and he, (bless him), not knowing how to deal with an extremely hormonal woman. We’ve emotionally run the full gamut of anger, apathy, numbness, hope and despair. But it’s this path of barrenness (I hate that word) that God has used to draw our hearts closer to each other and more deeply into relationship with Himself.

Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days – when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great – and you turn to God alone. ~Rick Warren

God’s character has had to become the North star for our journey through the darkness of infertility. His goodness and His sovereignty have hemmed us in behind and before. It’s all we’ve had to cling to when we can’t seem to make sense of our circumstances. He is good and He is in control, and somehow suffering IS God’s love for us. THIS, even this, is a gift from the loving hand of our trustworthy Father.

When we are frustrated with the waiting and the discomfort, it’s God’s unchanging nature that we can lean on knowing that there is NOTHING WASTED in His Kingdom. He is a God who uses everything. There is nothing wasted. No time, no waiting, no experience, no pain, no tears, no joy. Nothing is wasted. Nothing. He has a specific purpose for each day, week and month of this process.

Not only has His character become a great comfort to us, but you know when someone can totally relate to what you’re going through because you share the common bond of “me too” ? Well, because Jesus came to earth and can sympathize with our every weakness, we share in a Divine “me too”. Sure, He wasn’t a female with a monthly cycle but ya’ll. He totally gets it. God has children He longs to have as His own. He can sympathize with us even in this and can relate to each and every emotion we experience! Praise the Lord. The Great I am is sufficient for our greatest need.

We are continually choosing to live in the tension of walking by faith (knowing God’s character of being all-powerful, sovereign, all-knowing, loving and good) believing that He is capable of creating the universe thus plenty capable of forming a little life. Meanwhile, knowing that in His good and perfect plan (right now and maybe forever) having a baby is not His best for us.

We are still asking God to show us the bigger picture of who He is and what He’s doing. We are asking Him for peace, contentment and joy. And He really is delivering on His promise to fulfill our longings. Because HE is better than anything I could ask for here on earth. He has given His best to me, His own beautiful, beloved Child. Will He withhold any good thing from me? No, never. Is Jesus enough to make up for this aching void in my soul? I don’t always feel that it is so. But it is. Jesus loves me—this I know. His plan for our family is a custom fit and I can rest and relax in His sovereign grace.when it's not easy to get pregant

Do you know someone walking through the pain of infertility? I’d love to pray for them and share with them my favorite book. It’s the one that has kept me sane through all this (it’s also the one that has a whole chapter on what to say to people struggling in this area!). Comment below. Or let’s chat over on Instagram. To read more of our story visit any of these posts.

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Back-To-School (Like A Boss) Homework Hour

The homework hour is a very challenging part of our day…Probably the hardest hour in our home. So, in efforts to go back to school like a boss, I’ve called in the big guns. My friend Ellen, has served as an inspiration to me as she has transitioned her family’s homework hour from dreadful to delightful. I hope her thoughts will encourage you.

back to school like a boss

I am now two years into the world of having a house full of school-aged children. For so long this season felt sort of like a pink, sparkly, magical unicorn. And yet, I’m here. I am also now three years into the world of having three sets of homework assignments to navigate. There are many afternoons when that part of this season doesn’t feel like a magical and wonderful unicorn. In fact, once we got fully into this part of our family life, facing an afternoon full of math worksheets and reading logs and projects that probably require glitter started to make me feel restless, frustrated and rushed day after day.

Here are a few things I have done to redeem that time:

1. Ask for help. When our afternoons became the battleground for frustration day after day, I decided to ask for advice. I sat across from a dear woman who had been mentoring me for a few years and laid all of my failure feelings out. I asked her to tell me what I could do better and what I should realistically expect from that time. We came up with a plan that felt manageable and hopeful.

2. Manage expectations. Over time, I had come to see homework time as a small spot in my day where I could maybe get a few mindless chores done or even a little bit of mindless scrolling on a screen. Some days that works, but I noticed that I was always trying to finish what I was doing reallyquicklyoookaaaaay? before I would jump in to help on whatever the afternoon work held. And then I would be flustered and frustrated that I didn’t seem to be getting anything done very well.

I decided to shift my expectations. I made a plan to just sit down at the table where we were doing homework. I decided not to look at computer or phone screens. I keep a book handy and I’m simply present. I don’t have to help on every single step of the assignments that my children bring home daily, but I am accessible and available.

3. Figure out what brings me to the table. It’s hard to stop everything at the end of the day. There are always dishes to wash and laundry to fold and all kinds of work to do. Also, helping a 6th grader figure out prime factorization or a 1st grader on the journey to become an independent reader? Sometimes I end up in more tears than the actual 1st or 6th grader.

I decided to make it a time I could look forward to. I clear off the dining room table before we sit down. I love fresh flowers, so sometimes I stuff a bunch into a jar and put them in the middle. I light a musky, earthy and wonderful candle. I put the acoustic guitar station on pandora and let it play in the background (because apparently I am old). It helps.

4. Hold it all loosely. I really love my routines, which means I might struggle a little with being spontaneous. In fact, I can start to feel all twitterpated when life doesn’t cooperate with my comfortable way of walking through my day. I also have three school-aged children and a husband working for a parachurch ministry. Life rarely cooperates with my expectations.

I have to hold my afternoons loosely. Sometimes I have to cook dinner during our homework hours so I ask my short stacks to sprawl out on the kitchen floor. Sometimes one child has guitar practice so another one does homework on a music stand in the hallway. Sometimes we have baseball or basketball or what have you and we just have to get all the things done anyway I can. Sometimes I have work I have to do so we just have to put our heads down and barrel through.

There’s one thing I hold onto, though. My goal is to be present (accessible and available) when and where I can. When I feel restless, frustrated and fed up: I admit it, apologize and tell everyone (especially myself) that we will try again next time. And then I let it go and start fresh the next day because I know that it’s not about my performance but my presence any way I can give it.

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To hear more encouragement from Ellen, follow her on Instagram @sweetwaterellie.

Hey, Freshman Girl.

Hey, Freshman Girl.

Okay, so I know you don’t know me, but I totally get you, mostly because I was you. I know how much time you’ve spent picking out THE most perfect duvet cover complete with coordinating trash can. And, that futon? It’ll fit right beside your mini fridge. It’s all just perfect.

I cannot wait for you to meet your potluck roommate. I know you’ve stalked the mess out of her. Don’t worry. You’re going to click instantly. Trust me, she’s bridesmaid material, for sure. Your suite mate? She’s a Klepto—translation: she’ll be “borrowing” your cute clothes in no time. I kid, I kid. But seriously, watch your back, and love her too because you’re all just freaking out on the inside.

Speaking of freaking out, your mom is about to melt down on the inside. She’s totally trying to play it cool, but she’s moving a chunk of her heart onto the 7th floor of that co-ed dorm and she’s not 100% sure you’re gonna remember to wear your shower shoes, so cut the woman some slack and let her cry and fuss and blow up your phone these first few weeks. And your dad? You’re gonna notice he doesn’t have a lot to say as he lofts your bed and meets your RA. But it’s just because he’s afraid that if he starts to talk, he might become a blubbering mess. You’re his baby girl and he’s just not sure he’s ready for this. And when they pull away? It’s okay for your heart to crumple and for tears to come. In fact, I hope you cry and miss your family. It means y’all are each other’s safe place. And that’s how it’s meant to be, because with family, you’re loved already! Share your nerves and your insecurities with them and actually follow their advice during this crazy season of life. And please, please, please, wear your shower shoes!

That first weekend is gonna be brutal. The university is going to try and keep you busy with picnics and lots of free stuff and you will do a great job of meeting people and getting their numbers, but when it comes down to it, you’re gonna feel lonely. You’re gonna think, “What have I done?” and you’re gonna wish you could just watch a movie with your high school best friend. And you can. Next summer. But now is the time to be all here and lean into this loneliness, embracing the woman you are becoming.

No pressure, but the choices you make here will determine the trajectory on which you’re headed. Those friends you hope to surround yourself with? Choose the kind of girls whose character you admire most, because your crowd will determine your destiny. Oh, and you’ve probably heard of the MRS degree? Regardless of whether you get the “ring by spring” of your senior year or not, these years are going to determine what kind of man you spend your life with. In fact, you’re going to discover the purpose of your life and you will “find yourself” because YOU have always been there. You just needed these formative years to become secure in the skin God gave you.

Speaking of God, you’re probably about to have your heart rocked. Listen, I am not totally sure where you are in your faith, but I am praying you experience God in the most powerful ways during these next 4 years. There is no time like now to make your faith your own. And guess what? God loves you already. He created you with those freckles and has incredible adventures planned for that quirky personality. He knows that maybe, if you’re honest, you’ve thought about going  to college and going at least a little buck wild but He’s made a provision for your crazy self. He’s gonna show you that He is better than the booze, the boys and that perfect body you long to have. He is the One who quenches your thirsty soul. And He’s going to take those secret longings of your heart and complete them in the person of Jesus. Because, that Jesus guy? HE is the reason you are already loved.

Yes, you’ll need to church shop and campus ministry hop for yourself and find a community of people who are for real about their faith. Go! Even if you have to go by yourself. Because, let me tell you, if you blow it this year, and you probably will–either by doing the things you thought you’d never do or by judging the girl down the hall for doing the unthinkable. There is nothing like walking into a room filled with people (who, come to find out, actually are those cool people you were hoping to meet in college) who are singing their hearts out and learning about Jesus. There is nothing like having your mind blown as you sit among them and come to understand that He lived a perfect life and died to erase your judgments and slip-ups, so that you could have a relationship with God. You’re not even gonna believe how He uses your shame, shortcomings and that semi-awkward Bible study on your dorm floor, to show you His irresistible love.

And as you learn to study the Bible, His love will change you. And you will need it to because you thought you were fairly cool and moderately attractive (even with that dreaded freshmen 15.)  But you’re going to quickly find yourself swimming in a sea of effortlessly perfect girls whose grades are waaayy better than anyone from your hometown. And you’re going to need the Anchor for your soul to remind you that you’re loved already. And since there’s nothing you can do to make the Creator of the Universe love you more or less, then no matter what sorority bid you do or do not receive, you can take a deep breath and smile from the inside out. When you know who you are based on who God says you are, and that you’re loved already, then your confidence (like God’s love for you in Christ) cannot and will not waver.

And when you go to that first date party your significance won’t be found in how many heads you turn or by how many people ask to buy you a drink. (And here is where I play the mom card and remind you to bring your own water bottle to every social function so you can always have a safe (and legal) beverage in your hand. It overrides the sketchy guy who keeps yelling, “Hey, can I get you something to drink?”. Trust me, I’m just looking out for you, girl.) Also, legitimately, nothing good happens after midnight.  So when people start slurring their words, you and your water bottle invite those solid gal pals to go watch Netflix, please. Because, after all, 8 am Biology 101 taught by the guy whose name you’ve not yet figured out how to pronounce does not take “I couldn’t find a parking space” for an excuse when last night’s black X on your underage hand is smeared all over your cheek.

Oh, and class? P.S.That is why we go to college. And that class that you thought doesn’t take attendance? That is the one whose professor wants to crucify your grade point average and get you to pay another year’s tuition ensuring his job security. So, for the love of used textbooks, get your tail to class. Also? Your professor is a real live human and it would benefit you to visit him during his office hours and at least establish some rapport so that when your 92.7 needs a curve he will remember the extra effort you made to see him about that lab project.

And, speaking of those big bucks put toward funding your future diploma, let’s talk about the YEARS you and/or your parents have worked tirelessly to pull together enough cash for you to attend the school of your dreams. Please, girl, let’s figure out a budget. Learning how to say yes to your needs and no to at least some of your wants will be one of your greatest steps toward adulthood. Sure, you can include an itemized budget line that covers your midnight chocolate chip cookie run(s), but let’s put it in writing so you know how you’re paying for that mani/pedi before the credit card statement posts.

Okay, I feel like I’ve covered the initial bases, but girl, you need someone like me. You need a good mentor while at school. You need someone to bounce your thoughts and ideas, insecurities and adventures off of. You need me to tell you when “that guy” is being an IIIIIIDDDIIIOT and you need me to tell you that Ecology won’t be the death of you. You need someone to encourage you to apply for that mission trip, even though you are scared scared to death. And you need someone to challenge you that while all “those girls” look picture-perfect on social media, they, just like you, need someone to tell them that in Christ, they are loved already. And who knows? All the while God has been shaping your soul here at school, He may have just been using you to dramatically influence the lives of students around you. And wouldn’t that make your collegiate years worth it?

So when you get to campus in a few days, reach out to that campus ministry chick who keeps texting you and inviting you to stuff. I promise you she’s not weird and even though you know don’t know her yet… she loves you already! XOXO

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This article is featured today on the Redeemed Girl’s website, a ministry near and dear to my heart. Marian and I share a passion for reaching college-aged women and it was such an honor to work on this together. I mean, you know you’ve gotta write an article like this when you’re states away from each other, but are both overcome with emotion at the exact same time because of all the sweet girls flooding college towns this week. We hope this will reach each one of them. If you know a freshmen girl, (or one of those precious mommas who are freaking out), send her to visit RedeemedGirl.org. It’s a fantastic resource for women 18-35!!

When She Wants Her Hair To Be Yellow

I was mid-mascara and trying get our family out the door for church (which any human who’s been around children for two seconds knows is an act of Congress) when my five-year-old walked in with her shoulders slumped, chin down, and bottom lip quivering. I bit my own lip so as not to laugh at the drama and asked, “What’s the matter, girl?” Her cute little pout begged the question.

“Oh Momma, I want my hair to be yellow. But it’s just yucky brown.”

It seemed funny at first, but then I caught my breath knowing that in the world of a kindergartner, this was a big deal. I asked her what she thought was so special about yellow hair. And, of course, since one of her best friends and her one of her favorite princess are both blondes, she just knew that yellow was the most beautiful hair color in the world.

I told her that I completely understood, and that sometimes I wish that I looked differently, too; but, that we all have to fight the lies that Satan whispers to us telling us that the way God made us isn’t good enough.

I asked her, “Do you ever hear the beautiful flowers saying, ‘I wish I were purple and not plain old pink…” or the puppies saying, ‘I sure would like a longer tail and fluffier ears…” This made her giggle. I stared into her dark brown eyes in the mirror where I too was wishing and working to be more beautiful, and said, “When someone gives you a present it doesn’t matter one bit what color or shape the wrapping paper is, it’s the gift inside that counts. You are God’s masterpiece, a beautiful work of art, a gift from God to me. The wrapping of your skin, your hair, your shape and size? They aren’t what determines your true beauty. We’ve got to fight these lies together, okay?”

To read the rest click HERE!

Back-To-School (Like A Boss) Breakfast Ideas

How is it August, people?

August means carpooling, homework and permission slips are right around the corner and I am so not ready…not even just not ready, I am downright dreading my kids going back-to-school. I have loveeeed having them home. I didn’t say I’ve loveeed having their messes, their sibling squabbles and/or their mid-afternoon meltdowns here, but I’ve loved all the rest.

In honor of August, I thought we needed a little “Back-to-School Like a Boss” series around here, so I’ve compiled a few thoughts and invited several sweet friends to add their perspectives and tips over the next few weeks so that by that first day of school (aka social media being inundated with crisp tennis shoes, and chalkboard messages), you’ll be ready to go back-to-school like a boss. Because whether you’re a homeschooler or public schooler or it’s just you, we are all on the cusp of feeling that sense of newness as we say goodbye to the long days of summer and welcome the bursting colors of Fall.

Today, I’ll share a few healthy breakfasts tips. Then, I’m thinking we need a post about morning routines, a post about that pesky detail called “lunch”, some great thoughts about having a happy homework hour (which I clearly will not be writing, because it’s basically the least happy hour at our house, but I’m excited to learn!) There will, of course, be a list of freezer meals that I’m stock-piling to help on those days that are pinched for time. Then, maybe we can all put our heads together and do a “Share The Wealth” post where I compile your thoughts and ideas about going back-to-school like a boss? What do you think? I’d love to hear what you’re considering. We shall see where it goes from here. But first up…

Back-To-School Like a Boss Breakfast Ideas

My thought is that even if it’s all downhill the rest of the day, I can at least start the morning off on the right foot. Because, let’s be honest. This. 094







My kids are at a fun stage where they are all about learning to do things by themselves. And I am all about delegating tasks to my new work force. Those Quaker Low Sugar Maple Brown Sugar packets are easy enough for a 5 year old for open, dump in a bowl, add water and pop in the microwave for a minute and a half. While the microwave is going we work together to chop up fruit and nuts, maybe toss in some flax meal and chia seeds and boom! A nourishing breakfast and empowered child who is beaming and feeling like a rock star.

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We’ve talked plenty about how a lazy mom gets her greens, but smoothie prep is key during these warm months. On Sunday nights I throw handfuls of fruit, spinach, probiotics, barley greens, chia seeds, flax meal and ice into quart sized bags then throw them in the freezer for the week. Each morning I can just toss it all in the blender, add some OJ and water and maybe coconut milk and an avocado and it’s a power-packed breakfast in a cup. As long as we have these wide smoothie straws, my kids suck these bad boys down and they are so easy!

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We go through 5 dozen eggs every 10 days or so…and I’m too tired to raise chickens. So, on mornings when we are low on eggs and I really need each kid to only have one…we might have a veggie version of a egg in a nest. D gets so excited when he gets to make these. Not that he wants to sit still to eat them, but make them? That’s his kind of fun.562

First you saute the pepper in a little olive oil then crack the egg inside and let it cook for several minutes until it’s safe to flip (not a great example here b/c it leaked…the bread soaks it up better. Then enjoy! It’s nice to have something different and my kids really like the omelet-ish flavor. You could add cheese too!

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One of my favorite traditions in the Southeast Cru staff women world is an annual fruit and yogurt bar that the women’s council puts on during our Spring staff conference. It’s always a really special time where we all show up in our pjs, eat together and share our hearts. I decided to bring that back to Oxford and it was a huge hit. 
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I made a kids version for my little people and they loved it! Aldi had some gluten-free waffle cones that I filled with yogurt, topped with fruit and chocolate sprinkles and my kids felt like they were having SUCH a fun treat.

130I think I’ll be serving these yummy fruit and yogurt cones on our first day back to school with some bacon and eggs done up all Easter morning fancy. Because, nothing says “Back-To-School Like A Boss” like some cross shaped bacon and tomb stone eggs.

019Oh, and these Oatmeal Cups are fabulous too, but I can’t find an original pic.

Okay, those are some of my favorite ideas, what are yours? What will you be serving your family and enjoying yourself this school year? 

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Mom’s Summer Loving List

I love seeing people’s “Summer Bucket List” ideas floating around social media. It’s a really fun way to get a glimpse into people’s hobbies and parenting ideals. The lists definitely inspire me to make more of the good stuff happen in our family life. I most enjoy mothering when I’m being intentional and really engaging with my kids. We call our list a “Summer Wish List” simply because I feel less obligated less like I have another to-do list added to my plate. Also because it makes me feel like I am some sort of tutu-wearing, wand-waving, glitter sprinkling, wish-granting, mom-fairy.

The only problem is, by the time the dog days of summer roll around and the Mississippi heat reminds me of the time I fell asleep in a tanning bed, I’ve spent so much energy hosting the neighborhood shaving cream war and getting my kids to run “their” lemonade stand, that I’m pretty much over it.

Well, this year, along with a good ole fashioned, “Mom’s Gonna Make All Your Summer, Summer, Summertime Dreams Come True List” (P.S. Thank you Will Smith for your lyrical genius that will forever provide all children of the 80’s a killer song to blare in our minivans so we can ‘hustle to the mall to get mini-me a short set.’), I’ve implemented a “Mom’s Summer Loving List”. That’s right. A list of refreshing indulgences I can use to enjoy a smidgen of mom time amidst the slip n’ sliding and fort building. Because, I love these things, but I know I need to take time to fuel my soul if I’m going to be the mom God intended me to be.thrive mom

I’ll give you a peek at my list. But because different things energize and nourish different people, maybe you would benefit from jotting down a few “Summer Loving List” ideas as well? Here are a few questions to get you started.

  • What did you love to do when you were 10 years old? Could that be a clue about a hobby you might pick up again?

  • When you have a Saturday to yourself, what is your default?

  • What are you jealous or resentful of when you see other people’s lives? Could this give you insight into something your soul is longing for?

  • What’s your favorite thing to do outside?

  • What things bless others that also bless you?

  • What’s one fun book you’ve been meaning to read?

  • What’s one goal you’ve been hoping to accomplish?

Click HERE to read the rest!

When You’re Too Tired To Read Your Bible

You know that feeling you get when you know that you need to spend time reading the Bible, but your brain feels so fatigued and mushy that you default to scrolling through Instagram rather than meeting with the Creator of the Universe?

Anyone?

when you're too tired to read your bible

 

Lately, (as in ever since I became a mom), there’s been this static-like feedback in my mind. It fogs and filters my thoughts all day, evaluating how I can preserve as much energy as possible to get through the day. There are those who can pull off this mothering gig with capacity to spare, but let’s be honest, people. I am over here doing mental gymnastics just to keep everyone alive.

It’s that subconscious static that says, “nope” when I see a big task lingering on my to-do list and “not gonna happen” when I look at the thought-provoking book on my nightstand. And then there is the twinge of guilt that comes when I see my Bible laying on my desk but I feel too tired to pick it up and think. My heart is there, but so is my weariness. And my self preservation. But more importantly, so is an ocean full of grace.

I had a youth pastor who once said, “Kitty, I want you to skip your quiet time and just SEE if God still loves you.” I’ve chewed on that thought for the last 20 years as I’ve slowly begun to believe that Christ’s righteousness is mine. There’s no amount of Bible reading that could make Him love me more or less. I don’t have to read my Bible, I GET to spend time with my Creator.

So, instead of fighting my season of life and drill sergeanting myself into what I think walking with God should look like, I’ve decided to go with it. Go with what feels like a gift and a treat to my soul.

Go with whatever means of grace gently gets the real version of me to the real version of Him.

Sometimes that means a nap as I listen to the Divine Office. Or maybe a prayer walk, listening to a podcast or cooking while the AudioBible plays. Sometimes it’s sitting on the deck in silence or doing my best to bring my whole heart to reading the Bible with my kids at the breakfast table.

This week it has looked like…

Attempting to have my journal, Bible, pencil (I’m a pencil girl all of the sudden…I think that’s what my 30′s have taught me…life is always erasable…but that’s another blog post for another day), earbuds, water bottle and work out clothes laid out so I can get a quick workout in before the kids wake. (So Proverbs 31 of me, right? Actually it’s just so I can eat all the gelato I just discovered at Walmart.) It’s looked like treating myself to a cup of Harney and Son’s Coconut Green Tea as I drop my kids at DAY CAMP (!!!!!!!!???!! HOW HAS NO ONE TOLD ME THE MIRACLE THAT IS DROPPING YOUR KIDS OFF AT DAY CAMP?!??????!!!!!) and then using the totally doable and completely manageable Hello Mornings Bible study worksheets that I printed off when we went to Rome.

If I am tired, but my things are already all laid out, it’s comforting to see that I thought of my future self and cared for myself in this way. My spiritual nourishment is also 100% more likely to happen because there are less chances of me breaking my leg as I tiptoe like a ninja and army crawl around in the dark, so as to not wake the fam. (Yes I did wear my clothes wrong side out to the gym twice this week.)

Lately I’ve showed up. Many weeks I simply have not. But reading the Bible even when I’m weary has made all the difference. For example, I’ve been struggling with contentment all summer and Monday’s study had one simple question, “Read Colossians 1:15-20. What attributes of Jesus do you see in this passage?” This was exactly what I needed to set my mind on for the week. I mean…

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all thingshold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven,making peace by the blood of his cross.

When I am seeing Jesus as more beautiful than myself or any set of desired circumstances my heart and my mind are changed.

Seriously. I had to type it out just so I could remind myself of the vivid comparison and truth.

Jesus

And then there was Matthew Henry’s take that got me all fired up:

Verses 15-23 Christ in his human nature, is the visible discovery of the invisible God, and he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father. Let us adore these mysteries in humble faith, and behold the glory of the Lord in Christ Jesus. He was born or begotten before all the creation, before any creature was made; which is the Scripture way of representing eternity, and by which the eternity of God is represented to us. All things being created by Him, were created for him; being made by his power, they were made according to his pleasure, and for his praise and glory. He not only created them all at first, but it is by the word of his power that they are upheld. Christ as Mediator is the Head of the body, the church; all grace and strength are from him; and the church is his body. All fulness dwells in him; a fulness of merit and righteousness, of strength and grace for us. God showed his justice in requiring full satisfaction. This mode of redeeming mankind by the death of Christ was most suitable. Here is presented to our view the method of being reconciled. And that, notwithstanding the hatred of sin on God’s part, it pleased God to reconcile fallen man to himself. If convinced that we were enemies in our minds by wicked works, and that we are now reconciled to God by the sacrifice and death of Christ in our nature, we shall not attempt to explain away, nor yet think fully to comprehend these mysteries; but we shall see the glory of this plan of redemption, and rejoice in the hope set before us. If this be so, that God’s love is so great to us, what shall we do now for God? Be frequent in prayer, and abound in holy duties; and live no more to yourselves, but to Christ. Christ died for us. But wherefore? That we should still live in sin? No; but that we should die to sin, and live henceforth not to ourselves, but to Him.

An attitude changer, right? Give me a little kids camp, a little Crossfit and lotta Christ and I’m a new human!

Jk, just Jesus :)

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What about you? What helps you most enjoy Jesus?

What environment makes you most clearly see your depravity and your preciousness to Him?

How do you embrace your season of life in tandem with your relationship with Christ?

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P.S. Because of my neurotic obsession with resources, friends know they can ask me for personal Bible Study, devotional book and small group study ideas any time. Since many of you have asked recently, here are my faves:

And seriously, if you were nodding your head with me at all, please listen to Paige Benton Brown’s podcast The B-I-B-L-E why sometimes it’s not the book for me..it is sooo good.

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Okay, I want to hear your ideas for enjoying the presence of God throughout your day! xoxo

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Show Your Real

My friend, Courtney asked our writing group (which sounds way cooler than I mean for it to) asked us if anyone would be interested in guest posting for her series, “Show Your Real.” Her hope is to encourage people to be honest about the reality of our lives- good or bad- and to foster a sense of community that goes beyond the often surface-y interactions of social media.
Check out all full guest post series, the Show Your Real related posts or the hashtag to spread the #showyourreal love. 
I love keeping it real, so I happened upon the perfect opportunity to show MY real just recently…warning…unfluffed decorative pillows lie ahead…

There are two types of people in the world.

Those who leave their master bedroom doors open when people come to their homes…018

…and those who cannot. It’s not that they will not, it’s just that they cannot.

It’s that bad.

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A few months ago, my friend, Ruth, who also happens to be one of my husband’s bosses, came in town. The regional directors were taking us out to dinner so she and I thought we’d hang out for a few minutes beforehand. We were short on time and I was a sweaty mess from the day, so the only way we were going to be able to actually visit was if she sat in my bedroom while I got ready.
I’m typically a fairly laid back hostess, I want people to see my real so they are set free to bare their own, but something in me knew that the state of my bedroom had gone from slightly unkempt to completely horrific during the few days our bosses had been in town.
As we walked down the hall past my perfectly vacuum-striped childrens’ bedrooms, everything in me wanted to keep the door shut and not let Ruth see the real someone-might-need-to-call-the-hoarder-hotline deal.
Ruth could sense my internal struggle as I warned her of the craziness she was about to see and she softly said, “Kitty, I love you for who you are, not what your house looks like. You are more valuable than your hope of perfection.”…
Read more HEREbowdenisms.
 What real might you share online to foster greater authentic community and encouragement? I’d love to see or hear about YOUR real!

 

 

When You Go On A Mission Trip And No One “Gets Saved”

We’ve been home from Italy for two weeks! I can hardly believe it.
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As I’ve washed the laundry and put away the luggage, I’ve reflected on our 5 weeks overseas. It was an incredible adventure, not without it’s challenges, but such an opportunity. I’ll never forget the quality time spent as a family learning to do life and ministry in another culture, the amazing team of students and professors who joyfully and faithfully served with us, and the fruitful ministry we had with Italian students.italian students1

I’ve shared these three things with friends and family when they’ve asked, “How was your time in Rome?” and shortly following the “fruitful ministry” part, people tend to say, “That’s so great. Did you see any students trust Christ?”

Totally a valid question. Especially for people who financially invested in our work. I’ve always done ministry in places that were ripe for harvest and I’ve typically been able to report a strong number of conversions. This has made me feel like a rock star missionary and in the past I would have been ashamed to report a goose egg conversion rate as a result of our work.

This time, I find myself saying that even though no one “got saved” the trip was incredibly fruitful.

cathedralSure, we longed to see someone’s life changed by the love of Jesus. Sure there were days when we were feeling like, “what on earth are we doing here??” But as we learned, Christian leaders in Italy have found that on average, it takes a European 2 years of hearing the Gospel and seeing it played out before their own eyes to surrender to Jesus.

Much like a chain with many links, each link represents seeds of truth planted and favorable relationships with Christians. These who are generations removed from the church need multiple exposures to the mind-blowing, life-changing concepts of God’s love, man’s sin, the sacrifice of Christ and how to place your faith in something you can’t see or touch.

While in Rome we initiated over 500 spiritual conversations with students and professors, yet did not meet one person who claimed to love and follow Jesus. But, you know what? The trip was fruitful because Christians were faithful to what God had asked them to do and because we serve a God who seeks to save the lost. 

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

Our team nervously raised the funds necessary to fly to a foreign country, were taught and trained each morning and then walked on campus 3-4 hours each day to strike up conversations with Italians who THANKED them for talking about matters of the soul. These young missionaries articulately and lovingly presented the Gospel to over 300 students, most of whom had never met a person who actually believed what the Bible taught. Though no one “got saved” It was incredibly fruitful in the seed-planting, link-adding department.evangelism

But, here’s the thing. Even if our team had done a crummy job at obeying God’s call for them, God is faithful to Himself and to His redemptive plan from Creation to the fulfillment of times. He will bring His Kingdom and rule to earth because of or in spite of our participation. 

Deuteronomy 7:7-9 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

Each semester and every summer we are asked to turn in statistics about the steps of faith we take in ministry. We record things like, how many spiritual conversations we initiate, how many times we are able to fully present the Gospel, how many conversions happen, how many laborers are sent into the workplace or mission field, etc.

As an American missionary, one who is often driven by numbers, crowds, changed lives, heart-warming stories, and progress in general, it’s easy to buy into the American Christian Dream and forget that God asks me to be faithfully surrendered, faithfully holy, faithfully joyful and relentlessly loving. I tend to want results because results glorify me. Yet, God wants faithfulness because faithfulness glorifies Him. The hidden, quiet, devoted acts of obedience are the sweetest gifts we can offer to our King. And, man, I am glad that He is in charge of people’s salvation and not me.337

Next time we think about our own ministry and legacy, support missionaries, or walk away from a church service ready to evaluate the effectiveness of Christian work. Let’s try to pause and reflect on the things God cares about, and I bet we’ll be hopeful and faith-filled knowing that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 

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If you’d like to hear more about our Summer Mission to Rome, Italy, you can read about it here: Week 1Week 2Week 3+4Week 5

For further encouragement about faithfulness vs. results: 

Psalms 36:5  Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalms 89:8  O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD,  with your faithfulness all around you?

Psalms 119:90  Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it  stands fast.

Lamentations 3:22-23 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new  every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Romans 3:3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the  fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and  he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But  the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against  the evil one.

Hebrews 10:23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Psalms 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will  find refuge; his faithfulness is  a shield and buckler.

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Psalms 40:10  I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;  I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;  I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.

Proverbs 28:20  A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Luke 16:10  One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

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Week 5: Rome Summer Mission

So many people are beginning to kick off their summers and I feel like we’re wrapping up ours! We have had the most challenging and wonderful adventure here and we are so sad to see it come to a end.

Week 5 has definitely been the most full week of all. Our focus was wrapping up on campus and having final appointments with Italian friends. We are still so encouraged by our students’ hard work and faithfulness in ministry. They have gone hard in the paint to the very last day.sharing

It was great to have had Gigi here for our last week on campus so Joel and I could be more free to serve. She was so kind to babysit so we could meet with students and be the extra set of hands we needed.

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We put Gigi on a plane Tuesday and our team took the train to Salerno for our debriefing time. We rested, processed alone and celebrated together all that God has done. Things like…

“Throughout the time of applying and raising support God taught me to trust Him.”

“I have been reminded of the amazing mercy and sacrifice of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection. I had been taking it for granted for far too long.”

“God led us to Italians who wanted to ask questions and were excited to have spiritual conversations.”

“I saw transformation in the way I view reading the Bible and the importance of daily time with God.”

“God gave me joy and peace amidst my fears of being in a different country.”

“Because of this trip I am seeing God in a completely new way. This trip has brought to my attention a side of God that is caring. I am learning to see Him as a Father.”

Tonight is our last team meeting and will work through the challenges of re-entry and have a time of encouraging each team member.

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Tomorrow we board our flight to America and with that come all the emotions.

Sadness because our time is over just as we were really starting to thrive and make progress in ministry. Thankfulness because our team faithfully and joyfully shared the Gospel every day on campus.Hopefulness knowing some plant, others water and God causes growth.Peacefulness knowing that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Oh, and happy because, well, like EG said, “In America, people will speak English and my feet won’t always hurt.” Just saying. 
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