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Partner Feature: God Loves All of Me

What is your identity? Who are you? What makes you, you?

Venturing into the journey of motherhood can leave us divorced from the woman we once were. Slowly, though rarely with intention, our “self” gets buried somewhere. Somewhere underneath the laundry, the diapers, the pick-ups and drop-offs, we lose our self. We think back to our pre-children selves like the way we’d remember an old friend; Oh yea, whatever happened to that girl? She was cool. I miss her. 

Why do we do this? 

Maybe it’s because of the lack of sleep, or the abyss of confusion that we get propelled into, wondering constantly if we are even doing this motherhood thing right. Or, maybe it’s the drastic overnight change from being completely independent, to being the primary provider for tiny humans that pretty much can’t do anything by themselves. And amidst all of this extra stuff, rather than cultivating various aspects of ourselves, we opt for sleep, or a shower, or drinking a cup of coffee while it’s actually hot. 

Perhaps for you, you’ve lost yourself somewhat accidentally along the way.

Or maybe for you, you’ve been misguided by well-meaning people who have assured you that this, this new title you’ve been given is your new identity; a mother is who you are. And so, just like with any good thing, you’ve placed the sum of your being in it, defined yourself by it, and continue to pour yourself out completely onto your children. While it’s true, you are a mother, that isn’t all that you are. 

Saying motherhood is my identity is like saying “Space Mountain” is Disneyland, and using those two terms interchangeably. Sure, Space Mountain is one aspect of Disneyland, but it doesn’t fully encompass it. 

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

Similarly so, our identity is multi-faceted and can’t be fully encompassed by one role we play.  

Our identity is fraught with passions and skills and gifts and interests. It’s enriched by roles like friend, mentor, wife, and mother. It’s a life-long journey of being shaped and reshaped, broken and redeemed and coming through fires we didn’t think we’d make it through. It was crafted in the innermost place of Holy, set apart, made to produce reverence and reflect the very image of the Divine. It’s made up of inner-wirings and things that make us hum happy tunes, and it’s built with gravitational pulls toward certain things and experiences. It’s all of this. All of these components mixed together uniquely and specifically to make up who you are. 

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

Motherhood is not your identity. It’s simply one beautiful, amazing, challenging aspect of it. 

But, discovering and cultivating that identity can be a struggle. It can feel selfish, inconvenient and irresponsible when little lives are so dependent on us. 

So, what’s a girl to do?

I guess what I’ve learned along the way is that the journey of discovering your identity is worth the risk. Allowing yourself precious time with the Lord, so that He can reveal to you who He made you to be, is the paradoxical way to more life. It will come back to you ten-fold, because it’s in this place of being led by our Creator on a journey of discovery that we truly begin to come alive. And along with this awakening comes an enhancement and enrichment in our children’s lives, our marriage, our friendships, and our intimacy with God.

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

“Identity: A Soul Journey” is a 7-week workbook & video teaching study that leads women on a journey of discovering their unique and specific identity created and given by God. If you’ve struggled with placing the entirety of yourself in your role as a mother, or if you’ve wrestled with a false identity, or if you’ve never really taken the time to get to know yourself, then join us. Join us on this soul-journey of discovering the unique you God made you to be.

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Losing Control

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I had created the perfect plan. I would get married by 24, have baby #1 by 26, and have baby #2 by 28. And then, at some point, we could add in a dog and live happily ever after.

But as 24, 26, and 28 all passed and I was single, I realized that my plan was in trouble. To be honest, I was not happy to have to adjust the plan. And I was doing all the right things, so I kept wondering why God wasn’t giving me what I wanted. I feared that God had forgotten about me and it was up to me to make it all work out.

 
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Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “The Lord says, “My thoughts are not like yours. Your ways are not like mine. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”

In time, the Lord showed me that my plan was so flawed, like I am. He revealed to me that I can make all the plans I want, but His thoughts, ways, and plans will always be better than mine. (Proverbs 16:9) And they were so much better! I married at 31, to a wonderful man who had two wonderful daughters.

As the years passed, I did a pretty good job of keeping the control monster in me at bay. Until our oldest daughter entered high school. The “golden days” of controlling her environment, friend groups, and experiences were a thing of the past. The control freak in me had a hard time accepting that reality.

During this season, I held tight to the words of Philippians 4:6-9, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds. Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. And do what you learned and received from me—what I told you and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you.”

The reality I had accept was I had been parenting out of fear and not out of trust. My worries and my freak outs were not things that were good, worthy of praise, true, honorable, right, pure, or beautiful. At the end of the day, it all came down to me--I thought I had a better plan, that I knew best.

I started praying that the Lord would make me aware when I was getting out of control with trying to control. (And, He has answered that prayer, more times than I care to admit.) I began to pray that God would give me and my husband the wisdom we needed to be the parents our girls needed, and He continues to prove faithful in answering this prayer!

No matter what stage of motherhood you find yourself in, don't lose sight of the fact that God has a plan for your kids. And His plan is the best plan, just as He is the best Father. Sweet Mama, don’t forget that God has a specific plan for you, too. He has called you to be the mom to your kids, and no one else can fill your shoes. He will be faithful to give us everything we need, if we lean into Him and lose our need for control.

Psalm 86:15 says, “My Lord, you are a kind and merciful God. You are patient, loyal, and full of love.” In our freak outs and our mess ups, don’t forget that the Lord is kind, merciful, patient, and full of love. So, let’s lose control together and parent out of trust in the One who is writing our stories.

 
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A Pleasant Land

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The land you have given me is a pleasant land. - Psalm 16:6

I am constantly living in a state of re-structuring my expectations. I mostly have high expectations for myself, but I also tend to expect that my children, our budget, our life in general will respond if we put the work in and live on the right principles. It’s not a bad way to think, really, because wisdom and hard work and consistency are all such important factors to a life well lived. Yet some days, or weeks, or months, life throws me. The people I live with don’t respond to me in the manner I expect. The money we put aside has to go somewhere we didn’t foresee. Somebody gets sick (or maybe all the kids and I get sick at the same time, as it most seems to happen for mamas, am I right?). Or maybe we just aren’t where we expected to be by now.

When these moments come itching close to my surface, it’s so easy to feel unseen. It’s especially difficult to understand when we’ve tried our hardest, and things just turn out topsy-turvy. When I read this verse on its own, it’s easy to imagine David writing it when battles were won, when harvest time came around, when he was in good standing with God and man. But if you read the whole of Psalm 16, you can see that David is coming to the Lord for refuge right in verse 1. He reminds himself that the Lord is his true inheritance, the Lord is his blessing. And then he says those words — The land you have given me is a pleasant land. This isn’t true just because God gives good gifts. It’s true because a loving and good God is our greatest treasure, and having Him outweighs anything the world can throw at us. He is for our eternal good, and he cares about us intimately. If this is true, we can trust Him with our today. We can even call it pleasant. We can thank him for the boundaries and even the struggles, because we have this great hope in this great God and His ultimate unfailing involvement in our moments and our days.

 
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So I’ve been practicing teaching my heart as David did, not only in the victories, but also in the trials and in the mundane and in the not-so-lovely ordinary --

When both of my children are up too early, we are out of laundry detergent, and my well-made plans to actually fix my hair are all dashed, the land You have given me is a pleasant land.

When the car starts to smoke and the grocery budget gets tighter, the land You have given me is a pleasant land.

When I wish I could do more, be more, yet the time or the energy seem to slip through my fingers, the land You have given me is a pleasant land.

When my marriage is messier and my children need more attention that it seems like anyone else’s does, the land You have given me is a pleasant land.

The more I tell my heart, the more it feels true (because it is). He is good. The place He has given us, boundaries and blessings, have so much good - and they show us His goodness, too.

 
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Partner Feature: Bible Belles

Riding in the car the other day, my three-year-old daughter called out from the back seat and caught me by surprise.

“Hey, Mama?”

“Yes, my sweet baby.”

“Even when I make a bad choice, God still loves me.”

I smiled and met her gaze in the rearview mirror.

“That’s right, Honey. He always loves you.”

I cry. Several bouts of cancer in your 20s and becoming a mom after you never thought you’d ever be one will do that to you.

“And when I’m angry,” she continues, “God still loves me. And when I’m sad, He still loves me. He loves me all the time.”

Please remember that, I think to myself, when this world is bearing down on you. When you come home from school, confused about your friendships, will you remember that His love is constant? When you ask to be left alone to wish away the world, will you remember that His love never diminishes? When you’ve retreated into your bedroom, second-guessing yourself as less than a masterpiece, will you remember that God poured out His perfect love for the creation of you?

She’s only three, but that little voice declares the truth with such certainty. As she grows, I can only help but think about how that voice might change when culture tries to have its way with her. 

The Sound of the Belles will be HEARD

For generations girls have struggled to find and use their voices. When we decided to launch Bible Belles, the goal was to highlight real heroes: women in the Bible whose inner beauty God used in powerful ways. We wanted to create something that would celebrate them and show girls what it means to know your value and live into God’s design for your life. We prayed and researched and prayed and studied and prayed some more. When we settled on five women for our first series, it was because of what these five women represent. They represent the journey: the real journey to growing a real relationship with God, understanding His definition of beauty, and finding and carrying out His purpose for our lives.

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These five women represent the journey to be truly heard: to discover and use the unique voice God gave all of us.

Psalm 145:18

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Hannah is the first belle in the series: the Belle of Prayer. Her story shows girls that the first step toward a real relationship with God is open and honest communication: the revealing of truth from deep within their own hearts.

Psalm 130:5

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.

Esther is the next belle: the Belle of Patience. If prayer is the first step in growing closer to God, the second step is to sit, be still, wait, and listen. We talk to God, but He wants to talk to us too. Our girls need to learn to wait patiently, prepare their hearts to hear from Him, and step out in faith according to His timing.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.

Abigail is the third belle: the Belle of Bravery. Once a relationship is established, it’s sure to be tested. Our girls need to know that they can call upon the courage of God to boldly face any problem. They can be brave and do what is right, even when they are scared. 

Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times.

Ruth is our fourth belle: the Belle of Loyalty. The series takes an exciting turn here. The first three books have focused on the self. I can prayI can wait and listen for God’s voice. I can be brave to make the right choices. One of our major goals for this series was to help girls understand that a “me-first” attitude and a sense of entitlement are not what God had in mind when He created them. Part of God’s plan and purpose for them is to love the people around them faithfully. A life lived in kindness toward others is part of God’s purpose for all of us. Self-sacrifice and putting the feelings and needs of others before our own are meaningful ways we can show real love.

1 Peter 4:10

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

Deborah is the fifth belle: the Belle of Leadership. The wisdom to know what needs to be done and to stir action is essential to finding and carrying out God’s plan and purpose for each of our lives. This final step in the journey guides girls to ask the question, “God, in what areas of my life are you calling me to lead?” and shows them that true leadership isn’t about success. It’s about service.

It was only after we chose these five women that we realized their initials spell the word heard. What a beautiful reminder for us to seek out ways to press our kids up to the voice of God so they can head out into this world and be heard in exactly the way that He had in mind when He breathed them into existence.

2 Peter 1:3

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

These women are so much more than positive role models. They are reminders of how powerfully, with a little bit of obedience and the right perspective, God can use us. With Him, we can learn to step into each day with boldness and remember that it is His love is everything we need.

“He loves me, Mama, no matter what happens.” Yes, my precious girl. His love is everything, and by listening to His voice, you will find your own.


To find out more about Bible Belles visit their website here

 

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Let Them Hear Them

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We are at a crossroads of activity choices for my daughter. If she decides to continue in gymnastics, it is a major increase in commitment. Or, if she decides to continue in dance, it is a major increase in commitment. Either way – one has to go. There is simply no time to do both.

Seems like such a silly problem to have, but it has pulled at the heartstrings of my girl quite a bit. She doesn’t know what to choose. Her heart loves both and she loves different things about each activity. And while obviously we are not pushing one or the other, and we have told her she can always try one next year and go back to the other if she decides to change, she is taking it very seriously.

In the midst of this, it has allowed some real intentional, soul-stirring conversations about what she feels like she is good at, what she feels like God made her talented in, and what her passions are. (and no, it’s never too early to start talking about passions with our kiddos – God put gifts in them since they were forming in the womb, and it is our job to draw those out in them!). It has also sparked some sweet talks about asking the Lord what she is supposed to do next year. We have discussed time and hours, considering family time and school time and meal time. It’s been great to think about as a family, and great to involve her.

 
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This past week, as we have needed to start making decisions, the most beautiful thing has happened. In her heart-felt angst about this big decision (a “big” decision to a little girl!), she decided to take all the information we have been discussing, and asked if we could all just pray and see what the Lord said about it. She wanted His input into her life decision. She wanted His leading.

And He answered! He gave her some clear leading and prompting in her heart. It was so neat to see, that after all the processing we did together with her, she still decided to take it to the Lord and follow His voice.

This was such a powerful moment for me as a mom. A reminder of several things…that it is good to involve our children in decisions and give them all the information that is appropriate for them to know. That there is value in calling out the gifts and talents in our children, and helping them realize those too. It reminded me that I have a responsibility to guide my children to ask the Lord themselves for answers. And most of all…it reminded me that He talks to them too, and not just to us adults.

Like it has been said, there is no “Junior” Holy Spirit. God can and will lead our little ones in the way they should go, and when we give them the space to ask God for what they need…we get to witness the peace that comes to their hearts when He answers!

 
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Dear Tired Mama...

Dear Tired Mama...

I see your messy mom bun, yoga pants, and sunglasses to hide your sleepy face.

I see you struggling with your toddler to get him buckled into his car seat.

I see your frustration as you child throws a temper tantrum in public.

I see you in the grocery store reading labels, trying to make wise choices while your children are pulling at your sweater demanding a snack.

I see you wondering if this day to day “mom-life” is even making a difference.

Sometimes feelings of insignificance creep into our thoughts. The day to day tasks can wear us down, and make us feel like what we are doing is so small in comparison to others. We tend to let our minds wonder and we dream of all the big things we can do for God. We see other people going on missions trips, speaking to a crowd of thousands, writing best-selling books, starting ministries, and baptizing people. And then our thoughts of insignificance creep in.

“I’m not doing any of that”, we whisper. “I wish I could do that.” We know what we are doing is important, but it feels so insignificant.

Let me tell you this.

You are significant.

You matter.

As moms, we can get lost in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Our kids cling to us, our husbands need us, and the outside world demands from us. The dreams and passions we once had can get pushed to the back burner and sometimes never touched again. We start looking for God’s purpose in our lives, but all we find is a goldfish in the couch.

 
 

 

Could it be that we are missing the presence of God because we are looking for Him in the big things, but He has been right there in the small things?

God knows our hearts. He knows who we are deep down to our core. He knew exactly what kind of mommy your kids needed, so He blessed them to you. He asked you to carry them, love them, raise them, nurture them, and teach them truth and love.

You see, God created moms to do one of the hardest jobs in the world. There’s no pay, long hours, and sometimes no appreciation shown. He also gave us one of the most important jobs in the world. He called us to “train up a child in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6). You may not have ever thought of it this way, but the great commission applies to us in our homes, with our children. Traveling the world is not the only way to carry out the great commission.

God promises that as we shine light into this world (and that includes our kids) we will know that our labor will not be in vain (Philippians 2:12-16).

So precious mommy, as you hurry your kids off to school, clean up another mess, or fold that mountain of laundry, remember to keep shining His light. You have one of the most significant jobs in the world. His presence is everywhere if we are willing to open our eyes and see Him.

 
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But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth. Acts 1:8
In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

 

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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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