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Inner Strength vs. God's Strength

I remember thinking as I trudged through the last few days of what felt like an endless season of chaos, if I can just get through these next few days, it will all be over.

I honestly don’t know what I was thinking when I scheduled two surgeries (for myself and my toddler), 6 doctor appointments and 2 major church events (which also included several days of prep work) all within a two and a half week period. Seriously. Talk about Mom brain.

I guess I didn’t foresee I would also be including four days booked solid with movie nights, dinners, lunches and play dates with my sister (and son) who flew in last minute that same week. Nor did I foresee a 3-4 day round of miserable vertigo while she was here and beyond.

And when my 2 1/2 weeks of surgeries, appointments, events, sickness and fun was finally over, and I was about to breathe a giant sigh of relief walking away from the very last doctor appointment with my daughter, I got an unexpected phone call. My other sister was unexpectedly getting induced 5 weeks early and my mom was out of town and she needed me to go stay with her toddler. So after the movie I had scheduled to go to with my dad that afternoon, I went right to her house and hopped between there and the hospital for 3 days, unshowered I might add, with a willing heart, but very tired body. Because on top of all the crazy, my family of 6 didn’t go away. Our normal routine didn’t stop. And I was so very tired.

 
 

Even as my semi-chaotic calendar came to a halt, I felt powerless to stop the clutter it seemed my life was. Because though my ‘schedule’ might slow down eventually, I still had a family of 6 to care for and life wouldn’t really and truly slow down for a very long time. My ‘free time’ won’t ever really go beyond the occasional hour or two after everyone went to bed. I would always have to wake up the next morning and be the someone everyone needs me to be and do the something that 5 other people need me to do.

How do I do that and still feel joy and peace and strength in the midst of it all?

Several years ago, I remember reading several posts by a friend who was going through a difficult season. The posts included memes and quotes with a consistent theme. “I can do this. I have inner-strength. I got this. You can’t hurt me. I am strong.” And as I was scrolling through my feed each day seeing these posts, God was speaking to me. Because as good as it may feel to be determined to get through something and still be standing, that isn’t really what God intended.

We were never meant to stumble through the hard times, forcing an inner strength to try to prove to the world or prove to ourselves even that we can handle it. We were never meant to cop an attitude with the world in order to get us through the junk. We were never meant to muster up all the determination we could just to make it through a difficult season.

What we were meant to do is to rely on God’s grace and strength. We all know the verse. When Paul was going through ‘one of those seasons, he told the Lord he wanted out. God told him, you can do this. Not because of your own strength. But because ‘MY grace is sufficient for you, MY strength is made perfect in your weakness.” (2nd Corinthians 12:9) So then Paul went on to say, not that he rallied up all his own inner strength and persistence, but instead that He gloried in his weakness. Why? Because when Paul recognized he couldn’t do this by himself, he was able to rely on God’s power already resting on him and working through him.  

Mamas, when you hit that season of chaos or when life feels overwhelming, remember who lives in you. The Greater One. You weren’t meant to win, accomplish, or beat any circumstance with all your own willpower and grit.

Let God be who He is and let God do what he does and be strong through you. It’s when we try so hard to get all the things done by ourselves that we shut him out. And it’s really a lose, lose. Because not only can we not really do it without Him, but we overwhelm ourselves trying.

We need rather to give all the glory to Him for what He is doing in us and through us and less glory to ourselves for ‘making it through.’

 
 
 
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Fear and Intimacy

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Fear and Intimacy

I am sitting here finishing up school work (and my 3-times-reheated coffee) with my biggest, her memory verse leaning against some books on the kitchen counter, staring me in the face: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1) And it got me thinking.

Living in fear is no joke, y’all. I did it for years, until the Lord graciously and miraculously delivered me from the stronghold of it in my life. It can be a low, dark, and isolating place, to live in constant fear. It can affect relationships and even our health, like it did mine. But fear doesn’t always come to us in such pronounced ways…. it can be subtle lies we listen to and believe throughout the day. It can be little things that make our heart twinge and cause anxiety. “Will my child’s health ever get better?” “Will she get her feelings hurt again at school today?” “Will he be safe without me there?” “What if something happens to me, will my children be ok?”. Mamas are definitely a big target to the enemy, because he knows he can stir our hearts to fear so quickly about our children!

But let’s take it back. Let’s collectively decide that the enemy cannot take any more ground in our hearts and minds. It’s not worth it. Fear steals from us as women and as mothers, and in turn will steal from our children.

 
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So how do we do that?  When we grow in intimacy with the Father (and learn more of his goodness and his love for us and for our children), it creates trust. It creates security. Intimacy leads to belief in his love…and remember what the Bible says: perfect love casts out fear! (1 John 4:18). So the more we are in tune with JUST how much He loves us and our kiddos – the less we will be tempted to fear.

Intimacy with the Father doesn’t have to look just one way. It doesn’t consist of just a “quiet time” each morning. Intimacy is a CONSTANT and CONSISTENT relationship with someone who loves you. With someone you want to be with and who wants to be with you too! What a gift to have this relationship in our lives – this loving person who wants to pour into us with all He has, every single day. We have the ability to talk to Him any time we want to, and to listen too. We can be in the middle of 2-year-old fits, or piles of laundry, or a demanding job, and still be in intimacy with Him. It’s a special relationship that doesn’t depend on time or place.

So, battle that fear Mama. Do it with intimacy, it’s your biggest weapon. And you’ll find that the more you press into how much He loves you the fear you have will start fading away and free you up.

 
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Introducing our Spring Retreat Speakers & Session Details

We're excited today to share with you our awesome panel that will be speaking at our Thrive Moms Spring 2017 Retreat 'Becoming.'

Today we'll take some time to introduce you to our speaker sessions and dive a little bit more into what they each will be sharing about. 

Let's get started. 

Answering the question no man can answer. Join us as Sheri shares her heart with us about understanding more of God's heart and our identity in Him. 

The world's way is to minimize our weaknesses. But the Bible is full of underdog stories. God uses a different selection process than the world does, and your story is not an accident. The question is: Are you willing to let get over yourself and let Him use you how He wants to? Even if it means letting your weakness show so His power is amplified? When we lay our pride down and walk in obedience, we get a front row seat to watch God work in ways only He can.

When we think about BECOMING who we are meant to be in Christ, we often think about our growth. I never knew a time where I grew more, than immediately following a painful hardship. God allows us to experience pain so that we can help others who are amidst it. My husband and I dealt with excruciating emptiness while we 'tried for baby'. After a series of tragedies, we lifted our hands in the air and followed The Lord's signs and He led us straight to Adoption. We TRUSTED that God would fulfill our hearts' desires after aching in pain for so long. The Bible is very clear that Jesus doesn't "waste a hurt" in 2 Corinthians 1:4, 6. He will bring us out of pain, but He wants us to share our stories to help others in the same rough patch we were in. I hope to bring you some clarity if you're on the fence about whether or not you should share your journey. You never know who you can help and inspire. I never imagined I would be an "inspiring mom", by the grace of God I can now share my motherhood journey with the world.

God created each of us to be fully used for His glory. It is in those tiny and big, broken and beautiful pieces that He creates and equips each of us in our individual calling. If we are listening, God speaks to us in creative ways. The other day, His voice met me through my love of baking and the importance of luxury chocolate.

 

Freedom is for everyone who wants it—the lost, the wounded, and those weary from striving. It’s for those who gave up trying years ago. It’s for those who are angry and hurt, brilliant and burnt by the Christian song and dance. You are the church, the people of God. You were meant to be free.

 

What do we know about God? What does His character have to do with us and our everyday? When everything around us and inside us is constantly changing, never sure, what can we hold tight to without fear that it will slip away? There is a Truth that is always true, on our best days and our worst. Whatever our circumstances, there is a hope that will not disappoint.

We can't wait for you to join us during Retreat! If you'd like to host a watch party please visit our website here. As a reminder our Spring Retreat is May 6, 2017 11-2pm CST. 

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Knowing When to Walk Away

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Knowing When to Walk Away

I couldn’t remember the last time I had bent down to feel velvety meadow greens. California hadn’t seen rain like this in years, and honestly, I stopped believing it ever would. The hills were dressed in a festival of wildflowers; the trails lined with colors only Spring knows how to paint.

I looked upon the horizon, knowing what the coming weeks would look like: the rush of activities, the ups and the downs, and the days when the world would seem to take off without me. Manic frenzies. Depressive depths. Great successes. Utter failures. Over the tranquility of the rolling hills, I saw the storms of life brewing before my eyes. I knew full well what I had chosen to walk into: way more than I could lovingly, rightly handle.

With an overcommitted calendar pinned to my heart, I left the simple splendors of the neighborhood meadow for the chaos of self–inflicted pursuits. I traded the peace of Christ for pieces of myself—way more than I had available to give.

Oh, Lord, I sighed while turning back to my car, help me know when to walk away.

 
 

 

The Danger of Tunnel Vision

There’s something about the demands of motherhood that challenge the ambitious heart. When our abundant plans begin to steal away our ability to live and love abundantly in Christ, we find ourselves caught in a crossfire. Spread too thin, we run with a tunnel vision which refuses to see the miracle of the manna it’s collecting en route to the promised land. With our hearts dead-set on always doing more, we end up loving life less, jumping through the hoops of here-and-now just to get to the then-and-there.

The great danger of this sort of tunnel vision? God’s glory is rarely—if ever—the goal. Instead, we’re rushing to touch a glory all our own, that the affirmations of good works may be the delightful ends which justified the hasty means. We want the echos from our songs to ring loudly, forgetting that loveless service is always a mute tune.

It’s no wonder we break under the yoke of our “inner slave driver,” as author Elyse Fitzpatrick calls it. In her book, Good News for Weary Women, she writes:

“When we are driven by self-forgiveness, self-approval, and self-perfection, our faith will inevitably be poisoned by misery and guilt. We make lousy gods, and our quest to find okay-ness in our own eyes will always lead to difficulties in our relationships and unrest for our souls. We will never know peace or joy. We will find it impossible to love.”

Knowing When to Walk Away

Our insatiable appetites will always leave us starved when Christ is not the bread we’re feasting on. If our daily grind continuously tastes of joylessness and frustration, we must be willing to ask ourselves tough questions: Do we feel unable to do anything because we are trying to do everything? Does our best witness come from a lack of joy in our Christ, or a lack of self in our wills? Are we ready to take Jesus not only at His Word, but also at His rest?

Coming to recognize that ambitious pursuits have ripened sour fruits in our relationships, we must take courage to listen for the Lord. His gentle leading invites us away from overcommitted schedules and, more importantly, an overtightened clutch on anything other than Christ himself.

Rest for the People of God

“for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:10 ESV

In Hebrews 3 & 4, we find a theme woven in the text: rest for the people of God. Repeatedly we’re encouraged to not “harden our hearts” if we hear God’s voice (3:8, 3:15, 4:7), but to believe the good news by faith (3:12, 3:19, 4:3), obey the Lord, and thus enter into his rest (4:1, 4:3, 4:9–10, 4:11).

These verses are much more than an invitation to rest in the morning mercies of God here-and-now. They’re reminders of our best light in and at the end of the tunnel, one which stays the inner slave driver’s whip from our backs. In Christ, we can learn to walk away from the pressures of performance, and run toward the pleasures of His presence.

This rest for the people of God is found by believing Christ when he says, “It is finished” (John 19:30)—acknowledging our highest achievements are but specs on His rolled away stone. The gospel’s guarantee of heavenly rest gives both here-and-now & then-and-there respite; grace to touch the wildflowers, joy in the miracle of manna, and confident peace that somehow our humble less is His abundant more.

 
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In It For The Long-Haul

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In It For The Long-Haul

I watched her as she considered her options in the store, jumping from one bin of flat stuffless stuffed animals over to the miniature clothing and back again. For thirty days my 5-year-old daughter had worked hard to fill a sticker chart (one of her love languages) and her reward day had finally arrived. For a month of no “fits or fights” she had earned a trip to one of her favorite stores, but now I could tell that she felt overwhelmed. The idea of the prize was motivation to help her break some bad habits, but now that she needed to make a final decision, she was suffering from choice paralysis.

The gift was good, but she was afraid to make a mistake.

 
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It took all of my willpower to stand back and allow her to make the decision on her own. I wanted to guide her gently toward the multi-colored lion that I loved, or the bunny I knew she didn’t already own. But I waited, and she decided.

On a bright pink troll.

I’ll admit, it wasn’t my first choice. But after watching my daughter consider her options, something in her eyes changed when she knew in her heart what she wanted - and as we stood in line for the stuffing machine, there was nothing I could do to change her mind. I kept showing her the options I would have chosen, and she looked right up at me and said firmly, “Then you should buy that one for yourself, mommy.” And she went right back to hugging all that crazy pink hair.

I’m learning, slowly, that there are some battles in motherhood that I simply can’t fight - and that my daughter has quite a bit to teach me about confidence. This journey we’re on together as a family is a marathon, and far too often I try to sprint through it to get out of a challenging season or jump ahead to the next phase that seems more fun. But, like anything good and worthwhile, I’m learning that motherhood can’t be rushed. The lessons need time to take root, words and prayers need time to sink deep into hearts, and pushing my little one toward my preferred outcome might make me happier in the short-term, but what would it do to that sweet confidence in the long-term?

As I was praying recently, God led me to Colossians 1:9-12.

“We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul - not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.”

Oh, what blessing we might miss in our sprint through those seasons that feel unendurable! What bright and beautiful moments of encouragement might we miss sharing with our little ones as we rush them through life? Motherhood requires that strength over the long-haul, and frankly, I’ll never have it on my own. We are not created to be enough as mamas without Jesus pouring into us that glory-strength that brings beauty from ashes and joy from sorrow.

God, fill our weary and uncertain hearts with strength today so that we might be able to endure with joy this call you’ve placed on our lives. We’re in it for the long-haul, Father, and we can’t do it without you. Be near, Jesus.

 
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The Dinner I Didn't Want to Host

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The Dinner I Didn't Want to Host

My husband invited some friends for dinner and honestly, I was annoyed. I’d spent the week home with our kids and would have liked nothing better than a quiet night out with my husband. Ever the host, when an old friend called, my husband quickly invited him and his family over to our house that Saturday night.

I was a bit disgruntled as I helped my husband prepare food and our house for company.

 
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As soon as they entered our home, much of my bad mood lifted, replacing my angst with a feeling of peace and a sense that they were meant to come and be with us that evening.

As dinner was shared and we caught up on life and family, conversation moved to faith and believing God for big things, changes of heart and desiring nothing more than being obedient to God’s call.

As we talked about our plans to move out of our neighborhood and more to the heart of our city, something we believed and had peace God was asking us to do, our friends nodded agreement, a shared understanding as they explained much of the same conversations they’d been having with God, very much mirroring our own.

We realized quickly that we were in similar places, not entirely sure of our next steps, but seeing that God was moving us in a similar direction.

As the hours seemed to move by a little too quickly and dinner ended, tears were shed as we spoke honestly to one another about things that were on our hearts that we had yet to share with anyone else. We ended the night by praying for one another, encouraging each other and agreeing to get together again soon.

And as they left and my husband and I tucked tired kids into bed and then retreated to our own room, he looked at me, and with a half smile on his face asked, “Aren’t you glad they came?” with no hint of judgement in his voice.

“Yes,” I whispered, “you have no idea how much.”

As I laid in bed pondering our conversation, I was once again struck by how God knows our need, even before we realize it. And how he often brings people to us at just the right time when we need encouragement, understanding and an echo of, “me too,” even on the nights we think we don’t want to host.

Reminding me of Hebrews 10:24:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Are you in a season of transition and needing some encouragement friends? Who knows who God’s waiting to bring across your path, it might just take inviting someone for dinner and a chat.

 
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Featured Partnership: Texting the Truth

During my first year of motherhood I sent many texts to my college friend, Desi, who married and had her first child in the same years that I did. We were in the same season of life but led totally different lives, as I lived in the suburban Midwest and she lived on a farm in Idaho, but the commonality of motherhood bonded us together. Texts like this kept us from going crazy:

Desi and I exchanged random, sleep-deprived texts back and forth to each other, and in the process, a beautiful thing formed; we felt understood in the challenges of balancing motherhood, marriage and life. The camaraderie of “me too” breathed life into our tired-mama souls.

As the texts continued, God began to stir something in my writer heart about creating a resource and encouragement for moms during the transition to motherhood and beyond. After praying a lot about it, I sent a text to several friends…

And thus began the creation of the blog originally called “Texts Between Two Moms”, which has since evolved into the name, “Texting The Truth.” Once our team formed, we began meeting around my fire pit and brainstorming our vision for the blog. Through our conversations, we found a subtitle that captured our message: “Real Moms, Real Grace.” Our desire was that every mom who visited our blog would receive truth and grace--a gift that moms really need in this crazy, beautiful thing called motherhood.

It’s been four months since we launched, and let me tell you the best reward we’ve seen: each mom on the blog team has grown so much. We realized as we dove into this project that if we were going to write on a blog that communicated God’s truth to other moms, we needed to deepen our wells so that we actually had truth to share. For us, that meant prioritizing our own personal time with God as well as praying together (on Google chat while our kids slept) on Friday mornings.

Praying and sharing with each other has deepened our authenticity because we’ve decided to tackle real-life issues head on. The process usually begins with one of us sharing a topic we want to tackle on the blog, and then many of us meet on Google docs from our couches and hash out what we are learning. Usually after an early morning writing session, our mom duties call, but it always seems that the three voices that need to be heard can reconvene once the kids are in bed and finish writing. Sometimes when we are editing together, our cursors are moving all over the screen simultaneously as we work the truth out, but in the end, the Holy Spirit always seems to guide us in our final draft. We always feel humbled and amazed at what He did and even more resolved in our blog’s vision.

We recently discussed as a team what we are learning through our blog and we all agreed: We are more reflective moms as a result of working through these issues that arise in other motherhood, marriages, and life. Whether it be the text conversations we’ve written on finding affirmation in God rather than our husbands, or giving God our fear about our kids, or adjusting our expectations on Valentine’s Day, we are growing as we wrestle with the subject matter and ask God to show us the truth in each situation.

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Those Who Look to Him for Help

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Those Who Look to Him for Help

“I just don’t think I should be this needy.” I knew the words weren’t supposed to be said, but they were whispered, late and quiet to my husband, through tears. I know that being dependent on the Lord is right and necessary and what we’re called to, but I also know that I should be able to do more, better, with grit and gumption, all by my lonesome. Nobody ever said it out loud, but I know the expectation, even if it only is birthed out of some dark corner of my mind.

But I read somewhere that Jesus was the most dependent man who ever lived, and I think, maybe I should be as well — dependent, even needy, if you will. Perhaps it’s a lie that I could ever even get it all together on my own, that I could wake up and joyfully greet the little people without Jesus, that I could serve my husband selflessly without Jesus, that I could make it to the end of the day with contentment without Jesus.

 
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I read this verse recently, and I wrote it in my journal like this, just like this —

Psalm 34:5

Those who look to him for help
(This is something I struggle with — constant dependence and need. It’s a lie that the enemy whispers — that I shouldn’t be this weak, this dependent, that my one time with God or in the Word should be enough, that needing to go back again is proving my weakness.)

Will be radiant with joy. No shadow of shame will darken their faces.
(This proves the opposite of what I’ve believed — that my shame would increase with my need. Oh, God, help me learn this in the inner corners of my heart.)

Somehow, I allow this world and the enemy to tell me that I can find joy and peace within myself, that I should be able to get this inner strength on my own. Yet I keep coming up short, feeling the failure, and nothing, nothing has shown me this inadequacy like motherhood. Yet I forget that there is a God with a great well of grace for me. And I am learning, little by little, that looking to him for help, that constantly depending on his grace, it refreshes me. I am surprised, though I’ve been taught these truths, that I am not ashamed, that I am not condemned for being in need. Instead, I am met, every time, with the help (and more) that I needed. Grace, not shame. Joy, not frustration. This is the God who loves us.

 
 
 

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