Free Sample of Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full (Gloria Furman)

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Thankful for this lady and her heart for the gospel!

Gloria (@gloriafurman) is a wife, mother, cross-cultural worker, and the author of Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full.

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You can visit Gloria’s blog at Domestic Kingdom.

Thank-you Gloria for letting us explore the first chapter of your new book!  How exciting! I just received my copy in the mail yesterday!

Click Here:  Treasuring Christ Sampler with Cover

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Family Devotions Can Hurt

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“Somebody please hit me!” Those are the words I thought to myself as I witnessed my four-year old daughter sling The Jesus Story Book Bible across the room. Ballet lessons, really? I am thinking more like a quarterback on the football field at this point. It was destined to hit one of the three sitting ducks on the couch, and sure enough it soon spiraled directly into my four-year old’s head. Ouch!!! Insert: Screaming, yelling, fury, and near riot.

Exhausted from a long day, normally I would have continued to plow through the bible story. But on this particular night, my husband – the gentle “shepherd” that he is – tucked our convulsing son in his arms and made sure his head was not bleeding (why didn’t I think of that). Afterwards, my husband said, “Son, sometimes you just need to get knocked in the face with the Word of God.” Haha; yes! And sometimes the Word of God hurts.

For us, the flying Bible and the black eye to follow is actually symbolic of a deeper reality – family devotions can hurt. Often our family devotions feel like a trip to the dentist. You know you should do it, but there is always something that goes wrong. This includes the loud uncomfortable noises. Then, just when you think your kids are really soaking in the Gospel and becoming little theologians, one of them asks, “Why is poop brown?”

As you’re passionately reading the account of Jesus pulling Peter up out of the water, all of the sudden your daughter’s hair is being pulled out, literally, by her big brother. As you’re gently teaching your children about the importance of “loving one another,” one of them screams out to their sister, “I hate you!!”

From loud laughs to bodily functions to a hyperventilation or two, maybe you can relate.

At the end of the day, our family devotions end up revealing more sin in my husband’s and my heart than we could ever imagine. We’ve been trying to preach the Gospel to them, but by the time we’re done, we’re humbly reminded that we are the ones that need the Gospel.

But it’s crazy because we expect our children to love Jesus and to sit still like they are little saints, and yet we forget that they are children (children that may or may not even be converted). They will fidget; they will wiggle, and they will have questions (that may or may not relate to the bible story).

In the midst of the chaos, have you ever felt like, “What’s the point?!”

And then, it certainly doesn’t help your defeated attitude when your daughter, who apparently has been sipping on truth serum, reminds you of your perpetually bad bread. Then, if that’s not enough, when questioned about her thoughts on tonight’s bible story, she informs you that she “didn’t learn anything.”

It makes us wonder, why do we spend time with the Lord? Is it only to learn? Is our bible study time a complete fail if we didn’t walk away with a new revelation? Who is in charge of revealing His Word to us? Did the Holy Spirit drop the ball and forget His job? Or, is it my fault for being too tired and distracted (thinking about the fact that I’ve got less than 2 minutes before the next episode of Downton Abbey starts)?

Why do we sit our children down and open up the Word of God? Is it so we can check something off our list? Do we read the bible to our little arrows so we can feel good about ourselves? Sometimes. Often that is why I do it.

Or, do we long for them to know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we rest in the belief that the Word of God does not return void? This is our prayer as parents – that they may know the abounding, unrelenting, unconditional, rescuing love of Jesus Christ.

Our family devotions may rarely, if ever, go as planned. In fact, if you have toddlers, you can pretty much guarantee it will be flop at least half of the time. But at the same time we have to remind ourselves that God hasn’t called us to be successful in training our children to know God, He’s simply called us to be faithful.

Only God can change the hearts of our little ones. We can read them the Bible until the cows come home. We can have them in church every time the doors are open, and we can even make them memorize John 3:16 in New Testament Greek, but if the Spirit of Christ doesn’t open their eyes, they will never come. I don’t know about you, but this is incredibly liberating to me. Thank God the salvation of my children is not contingent upon my parenting skills, but their salvation rests upon the free mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.

So parents, keep reading them the Word. Continue sowing Gospel seeds in their hearts, even if it sure seems like those seeds are falling on hard, little hearts at the time. And through it all, pray for them every day. Pray that the same God who knit them together in your womb, would someday soon (if He hasn’t already) recreate their hearts to beat for Jesus and His glory. When that day comes, surely, all the painful family devotions will be worth it.

Frozen

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Brrrrrr!!!!! It has been FREEZING here in Kentucky with our recent record-breaking wind chill of thirty-two degrees below zero. That is cold people! In order to keep warm I have not stopped drinking hot tea and coffee; this may explain the twitch I have going on.

Northerners, how do you do this thing called ice!!??? I think if we ever moved up North, I would have to invest in a sun lamp and just sit there until I could literally feel the Vitamin D running through my veins.

Just want to give a shout out to my west coast/south Florida friends for posting all of your beautiful Christmas pictures in your shorts and tank-tops, rollerblading down the boardwalk – we are so happy for you!

Did I mention it is freezing here? I’m sitting in front of a space heater wearing two pair of socks as I write this.

Schools around the mid-west shut down for several days, and I would normally be celebrating the fact that everyone can sleep a little later. But, we had just finished our Christmas break from school and get this – the kids were already begging to go back to school. Mom of the year award! In a state of deep insecurity and in order to redeem my throne as “fun mom,” I decided we would have FUN in the snow. Two hours and twenty-seven minutes later, I had them bundled up and ready to go. The so-called “fun” lasted a total of fourteen minutes due to the fact they literally couldn’t move. I guess that’s what happens when you have on ten layers of clothing. Momma kept them warm under all those layers, but they couldn’t go anywhere; they were frozen.

When Everything Is Frozen
When it’s freezing, everything and everyone is forced inside into hibernation. Stuck. Sometimes when life moves in on you, it can feel like death, and oh, how you long to get out. Staying in can bring the ugly out. It’s like shaking a can of diet cherry soda with all that artificial sweetness; there is an explosion waiting to happen (this example can be taken to an entirely different level if your children develop the stomach bug).

Did I mention our yard recently looked like Narnia during the white witch reign? Vines are taking over fences, a misty haze of snow, and ice was everywhere. There is a mysterious kind of beautiful blowing over the glowing snow, yet no life to be seen. Looking out the windowpane was like looking deep into my heart; everything seemed lifeless. Everything seemed frozen. No color to be found, just blah. Yuck. Ick. Uhhgg. Dull.

Sometimes Life Feels Frozen

Frozen, stuck in the same boring and mundane routine.

Frozen, numb to the things of God.

Frozen, stiff to the advances of God’s grace in my life.

Frozen in doubt.

Frozen in our bad habits like nail biting, overeating, disorganization, forgetting your child’s homework . . . again (sorry Mrs. Hoak!)

Frozen, paralyzed by the fear of failing – again. I personally know the feeling of being so “bundled up” with fear that I cannot even try. In fact, often, I refuse to try.

Frozen, stuck in the same sinful patterns (many of which I feel like I’ve fighting since my teenage years).

Even your face is frozen in a vacant stare, and a smile cannot even be forced. You find yourself daydreaming, checking out, and numbing the pain of the reality that is before you.

We feel like the ice queen, who with her ice-cold heart is standing still. We, like her, feel hopeless and motionless. With no progress, we simply want to scream, but we can’t because our lips our blue with frostbite. As though we’re in the midst of a paralyzing nightmare, we can hardly utter a word. We’re afraid to hear ourselves say it out loud again, because we are sick of hearing our same little, seemingly meaningless speech to God.

Frozen In Ministry
The past month I have felt like my blogging ministry is frozen. I have a huge desire to reach as many women as possible with the Gospel. The Gospel says, “It is not about my performance; it is about Christ’s performance for me.” However, I cannot make my blog grow. I have compared myself to other amazing bloggers and wondered, “Why am I even doing this? Am I helping other women or am I just trying to grow my own kingdom? Lord do you really want me to write? Is this making an impact?” The sting of frostbite burns even more when you look over the fence and see your neighbor sitting by the fire.

Frozen Like Paul
The Apostle Paul used to embarrass me with all of his, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7). I mean come on Paul – get it together!!!! Everyone is watching you. If you, the author of much of the New Testament is still sinning, then my goodness, good luck for the rest of us! Paul, you can think it, just don’t say it out loud. Stop all this, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Paul was able to write to us in this way because he was preaching to us a Gospel that is not dependent upon our work. You know, “keeping it together” and sinning less and less. The message he was preaching is that our only hope lies in Jesus Christ’s perfect life and His death in our place. Until the day I die and see Jesus face-to-face there will continue to be a battle that rages in my heart. I will sin. I am not a slave to sin, but I will sin every day (even though I do not want to). Even when I seem to be doing really well and living somewhat of a “holy” life, I find myself sinning because of the pride or feelings of self-righteousness that creep in. I am writing a book about the beauty of getting over yourself, and yet in the midst of writing about getting over myself, I ironically see the hypocrisy of my self-love.

Embracing The Ice
No one wants to be frozen, but God often uses ice to bring out a unique transparency before God that could be cultivated in no other climate. In freezing temperatures, we long for the heat of Jesus’ blood and righteousness. In our frozen state we long for the warmth of God’s love to melt away our cold heart. God likes to warm us up when nothing else will. Then, we see our great need of Him, and we once again realize that He is greatly to be praised.
We are literally frozen and unable to move apart from the work of God in our lives (Paul would use the language of saying that we are “dead in our sin” in Ephesians 2). The recognition of our inability to move is the grace of God, and such poverty in spirit and utter dependence upon Him gives God great glory.
Outside in the midst of a record-breaking-Narnia-looking winter I saw a tree branch wrapped in layers of ice crystals. In my curiosity (and wrestling with God) I snapped off part of the branch, and there in the midst of layers of ice was life! Green, flowing, moving LIFE.

Christian, you may feel frozen, but there is life moving through you. The blood that flowed from the veins of Christ washed you then, and it is still washing you now.

Take hope and know that it is God who brings the snow and the ice. And yet He brings the snow not to harm us, but to show us something of our need for Him. After all, rarely do we truly appreciate the gift of warmth until we’ve spent a few hours in the ice.

Full-Strength Joy for Motherhood by Author Gloria Furman

Full-Strength Joy for Motherhood

At dawn the white light from the desert sun starts to illumine the wall from behind our dark curtains. That’s when I shuffle into the kitchen and look forward to an obnoxiously strong cup of Americano (if I remembered to set the automatic brew for the coffeepot). Each and every day, all the time, all around the world, moms wake up to long hours of hard work. “The days are long, but the years fly by,” they say. Whoever they are, they’re right.

Fake Help and Real Help
When it’s 7:30am and we’re already looking forward to 7:30pm… or it’s 7:30pm and we’ve got a full night of hard work ahead of us, what will sustain our joy? It’s easy to turn on the fake cheer—or sneer at cheer altogether. On and offline, we’re tempted to consume a steady diet of pot shots at parenting. Taking care of this baby is bloody hard work; these kids are why I can’t have anything nice; my motherhood is a trainwreck. Getting honest with others about our struggles is a step in the direction of receiving real help. And we need real help! We feel relief when we open up about our frustration. But if we’re just watering seeds of cynicism for the sake of winning a sarcasm contest we will only cultivate disappointing weeds of bitterness. Can joy flourish where bitterness rules in your heart?

“They” also like to say, “If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.” This is where they are wrong. The truth is none of us can “stand the heat.” When the heat is on we’re parched for real help, we need to quench our thirst with precious living water. The only place to get this living water is from Jesus Christ.

Promised Manna for Mamas

The place we meet Jesus is in his Word. Through his Word the light will shine in the darkest places of our heart and light our path.

From cover to cover, the Word of God reveals and displays the glory of God who sent his Son to rescue for himself a people gathered from every tribe on the earth. It’s this Word—this truth that reveals God’s promises—that will cut through the clouds in the very darkest of times. God’s promises are what encourage you to keep going as you daily lay down your comfort, your money, your time, your energy, your ideas, and perhaps even your health for your children.

When your soul feels like it is melting with sorrow, God will strengthen you according to his Word (Ps. 119:28). Let the testimonies of God’s faithfulness be your delight and make God’s Word your counselor (Ps. 119:24). Wise up to the sour indigestion of the world’s fake soul food, and taste the sweetness of God’s Word. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103).

We’re going to need something a lot stronger than fake hope to empower our motherhood today. There is manna for us, busy, exhausted mamas, as we engage in the daily grind of disciplemaking. It’s in the Bible that we read about the divine joy of the Lord that sustains our motherhood. So, since our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18), let’s not fix our eyes on our temporary pains. Let’s open our Bible, ask God to open the eyes of our heart, and lay our very real struggles at Jesus’ very real feet and really fix our eyes on him.

Gloria Furman (@gloriafurman) lives in Dubai with her husband Dave, a pastor at Redeemer Church of Dubai. They have four young kids. Gloria is the author of Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home (Crossway, 2013) and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms (Crossway, 2014).

Guest Blogger: Kimm Crandall author of Christ in the Chaos

The Gospel in My Chaos

School, baseball, horseback riding, baseball, 4-h, bible study, calling the fire department to rescue my four year old, t-ball, public speaking contest, baseball, putting our house on the market and having it sell in five days, major emotional breakdown on the baseball field by my son, prayer meeting, real estate phone calls, baseball, papers to sign and a now a child with a fever.

To say that the past seven days have been chaotic is an understatement.

Where is the gospel when the rubber meets the road and I am stressed to the point of not being able to swallow my food? How does it change all of this chaos?

When I am in the heat of the moment and my four year old is banging on his bedroom door as he awaits his discipline:

or my six year old won’t stop crying and whining about me not buying her a turtle

or when I get that phone call from the school telling me that my son has just tried to run away

or when my eleven year old cracks open an egg from under a hen to see if it’s ready to hatch yet, killing the chick inside again

or…

How does the gospel affect me?

Does it make me kinder? Sometimes, but not usually.

Does it make me more patient? Probably, but I’m not really aware of it.

Does the gospel make me sin less? Well, no I don’t think so.

So what does the gospel do then?

It tells me who I am. It forces me to get over myself, to be real, to call on Christ for help because I understand more fully how incredibly weak and unloving I am. It frees me to desire what is right because I don’t have to have my own way. I have nothing to prove because the gospel has reassured me that I already have it all.

And when I forget the gospel and I stomp around the house trying to prove myself worthy, He’s there. He knows I’m going to botch it up yet He loves me anyways.

What the gospel does in those moments of chaos is that it frees me to believe that I am still loved.

It frees me to believe that there is no condemnation for me because I am in Christ.

It frees me to believe that He is being glorified in that very moment even in my sin because that is what He does.

He will always glorify Himself.

And when I don’t believe that His grace is for me, He believes it. In those moments of chaos He is praying for me when I forget because I’m trying to restrain a screaming child, break up a fight or clean up barf so the dog doesn’t eat it. He’s praying for me when I don’t want to pray because it just seems like another thing on my too long already list.

The Gospel tells me that He loves to love me even when I’m unlovable.

That’s what the gospel does in my chaos. What does it do in yours?

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ABOUT THE WRITER
Kim (@big_kimm) is a mother of four kids (12, 10, 7, and 5) who is never short on examples of how God has flooded her with the excessive grace that the gospel brings. Kimm is the author of Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood and can be found blogging at Christ in the Chaos,  Domestic Kingdom, CBMWDropping Keys  and Faith Life Women.

Love is Slow: Part 2

Science moment of the week: According to Universe Today, in one hour the earth will have moved 1,040 miles. Because of an amazing, invisible force called gravity we are glued to planet Earth instead of flying off in to the Milky Way somewhere. It’s actually incredible if you think about it. The momentum at which we are traveling is actually preventing us from feeling the movement!

Is my momentum hindering me from feeling?

Am I aware of what is flying by me as I “spin through life?”

Is the rush affecting my rest?

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28).

Rest.
If asked to list some of the most fundamental spiritual disciplines, how many of us would have listed “rest?” I know, I know; if someone asked me what I did today, it’s a little uncomfortable when my answer is, “I rested.” I mean as a general rule, no one is going to tell you they are proud of you for resting.

Resting doesn’t sound very spiritual, but it is actually one of the most spiritual things we can do. We can freely rest because everything that absolutely has to be done (in order to accomplish our salvation), Jesus has already completed at the cross. “It if finished,” was His cry. We are now able to rest in the perfect life that He lived for us. We are not and never will be perfect in and of ourselves. So, we are called to rest in Christ’s perfect life and record that was transferred to us at the moment we first believed. Though we’ve sinned, Jesus’ perfect righteousness is now credited to our account. As a result, when God looks at us He doesn’t see our flaws and failures; rather, He only sees the blood and righteousness of His perfect Son, Jesus. The core of Christianity is this: we are not saved by what we do for God, but we are saved by what God has already done for us in Christ. Our souls no longer need to be weary from the broken cisterns of striving for perfection; instead, we can cease striving from our “works” and drink from living waters.

In addition, we are also called to rest physically.
Consider Jesus on the boat with the disciples during the storm. Do you remember what Jesus was doing in the middle of Hurricane Galilee? He wasn’t rushing around panicking and shouting out orders; instead, He was sleeping. He’s at rest, at peace – even in the midst of the storm. While everyone else is losing their minds, Jesus takes a nice little cat-nap. This in many ways characterizes much of Jesus’ ministry: a seemingly restful, slow, concentrated, love-the-person-in-front-of-you kind of pace.

For us, resting might look like watching a movie, eating ice cream, running, reading a good book, listening to music, journaling, napping, hiking, sitting, enjoying a cup of coffee, golfing, or going to dinner with a friend. These can all be ways of resting. Think of a few things that recharge your batteries and then make a plan to incorporate those into your daily rhythms. For me it’s a movie night with the hubs or reading a good book.

Gifts
When I slow down, I am much more aware of all the blessings around me. Butterflies dancing over flowers, birds chirping, and our kids’ laughter in the background can all be overlooked in the rush. So often, all we hear is “hurry!!!” Alarms, cell phones, oven-timers, incoming emails – they’re all telling us to get a move on it!
Loving slow makes me stop and smell the roses. I see beauty where there was chaos. Do you remember those 3D posters? You know, the ones where it looks like one thing until you stare at it up close and then it turns into something completely different? When we slow down and start looking intently into what God has placed in our laps, we begin to see beauty in the most unexpected places. What may seem like an interruption can quickly become a grace of God. What seems like an ordinary day can become a masterpiece.

I enjoy giving gifts to my kids. It blesses my heart when they acknowledge that it came from me and they enjoy it. God is the greatest gift giver of all time, and He receives glory when we acknowledge that every good and perfect gift is from Him. He receives glory when we acknowledge His beauty all around us – the beauty of relationships, creation, ideas, changed lives, good food, etc. When we are delighting in creation and the gifts He has given us, we are in many ways delighting in Him. However, the only way that we’ll ever be able to truly gaze upon these wonderful gifts is to slow down and take a look around.

Being aware of His loving-kindness around me, and seeking to love more slowly helps me to have a grateful heart. When I am rushing around I start losing “feeling.” My senses start to fade, and I do not see as clearly. My momentum is literally keeping my eyes on myself, instead of my Maker. May we join together in constantly practicing His presence, looking for His hand in all things.

Follow me on Twitter @AnnieEdwards01

Arrows and Xena Warrior Princess

Before rolling out of bed this morning I had this profound thought: “I must be Xena the Warrior Princess!” Now I know Xena is totally retro, and I am sure there are many other strong princess warriors out there today but I must embody Xena.
Before you start freaking out that the pastor’s wife is going to start dressing scantily, plesae let me explain.
Growing up I had a romantic idea of being a mom. I thought motherhood would be a lot like one of those beautiful paintings where the mom is gazing out a window watching her well-dressed children dance around the rose bushes as butterflies dance in the midst. Additionally, I envisioned that motherhood would be comparable to “Mary Poppins” and I would have a magic bag always at my disposal that would resolve any issue. There would be dancing and singing through the house with random cartoon figures, flying kites, and delightful times of feeding the birds. There would be countless amazing adventures. Anytime a problem would arise I would simply pull out a big spoon filled with sugar and in the blink of an eye, everything would be peachy. Oh, and also, don’t forget that all I need to do is snap my fingers and the house instantaneously cleans itself up – simply astonishing!
Pardon my grammar, but any parent who knows the reality of parenthood knows that it ain’t no Mary Poppins’ world. Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of dancing and singing and even the occasional adventure. However, generally speaking, the typical day is best described by the word mundane – oh how quickly do I get bored with the “everydayness” of life. Frequently, I have found myself thinking, “I did not go to college to be a Legos engineer” (speaking of Legos, if I step on one more of those stupid things this preacher’s wife is gonna go crazy!”) However, the problem is we have not embraced our inner Xena. Yes, life can be mundane, but it does not have to be boring!!!
God’s Word says this about our lives in Psalm 127:3-5, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
Children are a reward! They are not an inconvenience, or mere leeches that suck the life out of us. They are not “comfort” thieves. Our kiddos are not burdens, they are blessings from God.
Have you ever wondered why the Psalmist chose to use the word “arrows” to describe children? I mean he could have used something a little cuter – you know, like sheep or puppies (golden retrievers, in particular). Yet he chose an instrument of war – arrows are fierce!
We do not live in a land of make-believe; this is a land of war. In fact, the Apostle Paul characterizes the Christian’s life as a continual battle. He says in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkenss, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It doesn’t sound like Candy Land, and it certainly doesn’t sound like Mayberry.
In essence, each day when our children go to school, they are walking into a war zone. When they go to the Friday night football game, they are walking into a battle. When our teenage daughters walk through the mall and pass the posters in Victoria’s Secret screaming at them that they must be a size 2 in order to be beautiful an accepted, they are having bullets from the enemy shot at their hearts. When our boys sit down in front of their I-Pads in their rooms, and millions of pornographic websites are only one click away, they are sitting in the presence of a demon-infested war – a war of which many of them will not spiritually survive.
Do we want our children to grow up to be warriors? Are we training them for battle? I admit sometimes I fall into the trap of wanting to have “successful” children. Sports, grades, manners, talents; we want our children to be great, but are we pushing them towards true greatness – to be warriors for King Jesus?
I want my children to be “Arrow Children,” ready for war. If they are arrows, I want them to do some serious damage to the enemy. How amazing would it be to have my children standing at the gate with me – fighting our enemy together? Battles with arrows flying always makes me think of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. We recently watched this movie with our children and of course, they loved it. I must admit I got a little misty-eyed towards the end of the battle when James yells out, “Mommy! Narnia is going to win!” In light of this incredible spiritual battle that we are all facing together as a family, I long to hear my children shouting out, “Mom! We are going to win!”
According to “the Google,” as my husband likes to call it, there are three parts to every arrow. However, the part that is the most destructive is the arrowhead. If am a warrior princess in battle against the enemy, I want to take the arrowhead and make it as sharp as possible. The way the head is sharpened most effectively is by continually pointing our children to Jesus and His Gospel.
I cannot save my children, only Jesus can; however, I can pray for them. Not piddly little prayers, but warrior prayers. I can beg of Christ, the Chief Warrior, to save my children for his own name and fame. I can beg Him that they would see His amazing love and bow down and worship Him. In great faith, I can ask Jesus to protect them against the schemes of the enemy. After all, Jesus knows Satan’s schemes better than anyone and has already disarmed him and shamed him at the cross (Colossians 2).
I am so grateful for Jani Orland, with Renewal Ministries, for mentoring me. Every woman needs another woman in their life that has gone before them and has already walked the path we are now walking. A few days ago I asked Jani for some ideas as to how I can be intentional with my little “arrows.” I was expecting a long list of things – from catechisms, to making them memorize a verse a week, etc. Instead, Jani simply said that more than anything, my kids need to see me love Jesus.
Wow! I can have my kids memorize the Word and know all the catechisms, but if they do not see me treasuring Jesus, they’ve received mixed messages, and I’ve only left them incredibly confused (and great candidates to be Pharisees). When our children see mommy reading the Word, they will be curious. When our children see us bowing in prayer, we are showing them where are treasure is. When we sing praise songs around the house, our kids are learning there is only One who is worthy of praise.
Have you ever been around someone who loves Jesus and it’s just obvious? What is it about them that makes it so obvious?
It takes a warrior. When my children look at me I not only want them to see someone who loves Christ, but equally as important, I want them to see a woman who understands that Christ loves her. The greatest warriors aren’t merely those who love, but it’s those who are keenly aware of how much they have been loved. Ladies, let’s love Jesus, and let’s embrace Jesus love for us, and let’s allow our children to watch and learn.
So girlfriends, wake up, get ready for battle and get your warrior princess on!
“IIyyyy-IIyyy-Iiyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!” (that’s my warrior call)
If you would like to get updates on this series, follow me on Twitter @AnnieEdwards01

It’s Monday and I’m already out of Apples

It was a Monday and I was out of apples.

I am a fruit hoarder.  I always keep a glass bowl of fruit on our counter; I think it looks beautiful. I go to the grocery on Thursday and fill the bowl full of ripe fruit – anticipating it will last until the following Thursday. But on this particular week, it was only Monday and the apples were gone.

Jamus walked in from work and I am sure he saw it on my face; the disappointment of the day and brokenness of spirit. If he did not see it on my face, he had a heads up from a few “Annie gone crazy” text messages I had sent him earlier in the day. Head planted deep in a tear soaked pillow, I went through the bullet list of how NOTHING had gone right that day (dirty house, misbehaved kids, had not had my quiet time, depressed). Then, after wallowing through the extensive list I did an ugly cry and exclaimed, “and if that’s not enough, it’s Monday and we are already out of apples!”

Maybe you can relate. What should we do when it’s Monday and we are already out of apples? Or, when it’s Monday and we’re already out of patience, out of love, out of enthusiasm, out of energy, out of creativity, out of toilet paper, etc.
My feet hit the floor heavy; I was tired from our two year old deciding to have a blueberry bagel party at 2am in the morning. I was tired of seeing that massive boulder of dirty clothes – didn’t I just wash those? Seriously, how did this happen? I have nothing to show for my work! I worked hard to clean the house, but it somehow looks like it vomited on itself at the end of the day. I do intense workouts and eat healthy but I cannot seem to get my rear-end to look like Jillian Michaels’ and she promised it would in any pair of jeans I put on. My children were annoying me, and to be honest, I just did not like them very much.
As a result, overwhelming guilt came over me. I should be able to keep a clean house and love my children perfectly all the time. Then there is the boredom. I’m tired of eating peanut butter sandwiches every day, watching the same Disney shows and tackling the same arguments with the kids. “No, it’s not okay to slam your brother into the wall!”
But in the midst of all of the whining, it hits me like a ton of bricks: Why am I so unthankful when God has given me so much? I have three healthy children. There are women who have lost children to death or who are barren, and here I am acting complaining. Wow, I really am an unthankful, spoiled brat. I looked at the empty glass bowl on the counter and it was as if it was mocking me, reminding me that I am empty and a fruitless Christian.
I felt broken just like the bird on our driveway yesterday. “Poor bird!” James exclaimed. “Can we help it Mommy?” he asked, as he offered up his Panera cup to the crippled Robin. The bird looked as if it had crashed into a window and broken his neck. It was probably the neighbor’s windows (they actually use Windex). The bird’s neck was stuck in a sideways/twisted position and he was frantically wobbling around between death and confusion. I wanted to put the poor thing out of his misery, but not wanting the kids to think I was a bird killer, I left it lying there broken.
We were not meant to be broken. When Adam and Eve took the fruit and ate of it, brokenness began. Children die, cancer grows in our bodies, depression attacks, marriages crumble, sex trafficking, infertility, sadness, war, hatred – are all signs of the curse and the result is brokenness.
We spend our days looking to be full, but apart from Christ, we will stand (or lie) there broken.
My feelings lie to me.

I read in Isaiah 53 that Christ “was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his stripes we are healed.”
In Christ, I am healed. I am a new creation. It is no longer I that is living, but Christ that is living in Me. He was broken (literally) so that I could become beautiful to God. He covers all my ugly and broken mess from yesterday, today, and tomorrow. My nasty broken Monday is covered by his broken body. My tears are washed away in His blood.
According to Colossians, “He has delivered us (me) from the dominion of darkness and transferred us (me) to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” When I start living for my kingdom here on this earth, things start to feel broken. I start to feel broken because I am called to another kingdom. I am to live for HIS kingdom. I cannot make this earthly kingdom work for me.
I am reminded that I have this “treasure in jars of clay – to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us . . . . We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

I complained today about everything, raised my voice at the kids, surfed the internet entirely too much and definatley will not be nominated for mother of the year award. I was a complete brat BUT the Lord does not see a brat, He sees His son Jesus Christ, in whom He is well pleased.

Some days, we must be emptied before we can be filled. Some days, our little temporary kingdoms must be shattered so that He can remind us that a greater kingdom is coming. Some days we have to come to the end of ourselves before we’ll realize we must look to Him. Some days we are reminded that we are jars made out of clay, and some days we are reminded that our weaknesses ultimately show His glory.
Whether it’s Monday or Saturday, and whether there are 7 apples or no apples, Jesus is still King, and He’s still on the throne – and He’s still enough.

Expecting Rainbows

We all have expectations. Unrealistic expectations in parenting and other relationships can set us up for failure, discouragement, and depression. Can you think back to a time when you were really looking forward to something and it just didn’t quite live up to your expectations? Maybe it was a concert, vacation, or a date night. Or, maybe you can relate to my most recent “let down” – a colossal failure in baking what was supposed to be an award-winning birthday cake. My little girl (Ellie) asked me to bake her a “rainbow” birthday cake. Generally, I stick to buying cakes from the local bakery; however, this time I was feeling all “Pinteresty” and so I ventured out of my comfort zone and decided I would try to bake. I could hear the approval of my daughter and other family members as they told me how I am Martha Stewart on steroids, so talented in so many different areas, etc. I have heard that box cakes (this is as about as homemade as it gets for me, so stop judging) generally don’t go wrong since everything is basically spelled out for you. The box cake let me down. A day before the party my sister and I baked the layers (which I thought was a brilliant time saver). The day of the party, I was expecting a beautiful cake – perfect in every way. Then I began to add the second layer, only to see my beautiful cake crumble into countless pieces like the Tower of Babel. I tried to reconstruct the pieces together with the icing but it was of no avail. The cake was a total disaster. My expectations were not met. So, with only an hour before the party, I had no choice – I sent my husband to the bakery.

Last week, Pleasant Valley Community Church had the opportunity to sit under the teaching of pastor and church planter Michael Crawford. One of the things Michael taught on was parenting. I truly appreciated that this talk did not consist of a ten step program on how to be a better parent. I do not need any more steps or formulas; after all, they never seem to work. Quite simply, he told us to look in the Bible, study the attributes of God (our Father) and essentially seek to imitate that. Now, obviously God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and therefore He loves perfectly, disciplines perfectly, listens perfectly, comforts perfectly. So, no, we can’t love and parent perfectly; however, God gives us the grace to generally have the ability to love and parent like Him. However, I’m fully convinced that one of the greatest obstacles to us parenting like our Father is the sometimes unrealistic expectations that we establish for ourselves and our children.

We all have expectations for our children, and we typically grow discouraged when they fail to live up to those expectations. Michael encouraged us to list our expectations for our children. Here are mine:

1) No whining or complaining. I expect my children to wake up in the morning with smiles on their faces. Then, after breakfast, I expect them to tell me how thankful they are that I served them a hot bowl of oatmeal with orange juice. When they ask to watch another episode of Spiderman and I tell them, “no,” I expect them to say “Okay mommy! You are so wise and know what’s best for me; I will trust your decision!”

2) Love Siblings. I expect my children – all under that age of 5 – to always enjoy being together. I expect sounds of laughter coming from the playroom at all times, not shrills of annoyances and imitations of a UFC cage fight. I expect James to tell his sister He forgives her immediately. Yes, she bit him and body slammed him, but Jesus hung on a cross for us so he can get over it. Ellie should want to share her new Barbie golf cart with her baby brother. I mean why can’t we just all hold hands, skip, and sing songs all day long?

3) Desire to learn about God. When we sit down to read The Jesus Story Book Bible, I expect an eager desire and determination to learn about their Creator. There should be no random and unrelated questions about how many frogs are in the pool or what snacks we will be eating tomorrow. I expect full attention. After I have disciplined one of my children, I expect their hearts to be deeply moved by my amazing ability to recite the Gospel and how Jesus has paid for their sin. I would appreciate tears of repentance and gratitude for my effort. While reading through the Bible in the morning I expect my preschoolers to sit still and not ask for any drinks or cereal refills; after all, the real Bread of Life is being served to them. Basically, I’d like for my kids to be kind of like little junior John Pipers.

4) No interruptions during “Mommy time.” “Mommy time” consists of daydreaming, Facebook, Pinterest, television, bath time, phone time, exercising, etc. If mommy is involved in any of these activities the children should take a mental note not to engage in sibling battles, screaming, writing on furniture, potty breaks, jumping from couch, climbing up walls, or putting toys down toilet bowls. I expect them to know that the text message that mommy is sending is of the utmost importance and has to be sent in a timely fashion. Also, if mommy is on rep 34 on her crunches it is best not to ask her any questions.

5) A Happy Heart all the time. I expect my children to just “act right!” If I am going to be completely honest, sometimes I don’t care if they really believe in Jesus and want to obey Him. I just want them to act right in front of people so I look like I have done a good job as a mom. I expect them not to show anger outwardly. Just put a smile on your face! I expect them not to be scared when I leave the room or leave them in the church nursery. I expect my children to dress nice with matching clothes – no left over peanut butter from lunch on their faces. And for goodness sake, just put a smile on your face when a church member asks you how you are doing! I expect them to control their emotions. Emotions are hard to deal with and mommy can barely deal with her own emotions, much less teach you how to handle your anxiety. Kids who obey all the rules make us look good; that’s what I want. Sometimes while praying for my kids’ attitudes, I am faced with the ugly truth that I am not praying for them simply because I am concerned about their well-being, but because I just want my life to be easier.

6) Thankfulness. I expect to hear THANK YOU . . . for cooking, cleaning, trips to Dairy Queen, etc.

7) Obedience. When Mommy asks you to pick up the toys I expect first time obedience. I should not have to count to three.

I expect. So, let’s review my list of expectations above and see how this thing plays out.

No Wining or complaining. I am a Christian and I still struggle with whining. My kids are not Christians; of course they are going to complain! The good news is that God is patient. Remember, Israel walked through the desert for 40 years complaining and whining, even after God has proven faithful and over and over again. Because I have Christ in me, I have patience, so I can love my children and relate to their struggles. Preach the Gospel to yourself and your children. Let’s remind ourselves what we have been given Jesus and Jesus is better than anything we are not getting. Jesus lived a life of perfect gratitude and went to the cross and died for our little ones. Let’s pray for our children and ask God to open their eyes to this great gift.

Love Siblings. How well do I love those around me? Am I quick to forgive when someone has hurt my feelings? Do I become impatient in the grocery store when the “coupon queen” is going through her portfolio? Do I enjoy sharing my wealth (“toys”) with others? Do I get frustrated when someone does not ask me to play? I am getting frustrated with my children for not loving each other when I am struggling with the exact same thing. Jesus loved those around Him perfectly, knowing we would not be able to.

Desire to learn about God. The Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the very power of God (1 Cor. 1). How can I expect my kids to desire to learn about God when their hearts have not yet been changed by God? Good parenting and getting out a chalkboard with catechisms does not save my children; it must be a work of God’s Spirit. Furthermore, I look at myself and I say I love God, and yet there are some days that I would rather turn on the TV than to tune into the book of Romans.

Do not interrupt mommy time. Yes, I need time to relax and take a breather. If I am not taking breaks, I am going to get all crazy on my family. However, I need to realize that when my kids are young there are many times they will still need me to do things for them. One of these days when they are older, I’m sure I’ll long for those days when they “need me” again. At the same time, I need to be reminded that God is available all the time. He does not need a break from being God because He is all-powerful. He is always listening. Waiting. Engaged. He does not check out. Father, help me to be like you.

Happy heart. What!? A happy heart all the time? They are not going to always be happy and “act right.” After all, we live in a cursed world. Even our emotions are all jacked up. Praise God for these moments of breakdown my kids have because they are humbling me and making me realize I cannot do this . . . I cannot do this thing called parenting apart from God grace. It is so revealing of my sin that it hurts, but it’s a good hurt.

Jesus is a man who knew sorrow and yet he never sinned. Jesus gave us emotions. One of our children went through a phase where they would say they “I am so angry at you!” They said this like 37 times a day. This got very annoying and I would get to the point where I would just say well “Get over it!” or “Oh, wow, angry again, huh?” God convicted my heart, and made me take the plank out of my eye. I get angry. When I do not get something I want or thought I deserved, I often get angry at Him. I must preach Gospel to myself and my children. God lets me come to Him all jacked up, emotions and all. He is redeeming my craziness. He does not tell me to “get it together” before I come to him. Do my children feel like they have to get it together, or else mommy does not love them? I want them to know they can come to me with their messes and I will love them through the grace of God.

Listen to Mommy. Of course our children should listen to us and we should teach them ways to be better listeners, but I need to realize that I have a listening problem as well. There are many times God is speaking to me and I am too busy to stop and listen.

First time obedience. I mean really!???! Sure, we should teach our kids to obey, but should we become angry when then continue to struggle with disobedience? No! First of all, I do this to God all the time. Secondly, much of the bible was written about people who just did not get it right the first time. Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book on parenting entitled Give Them Grace does a great job of explaining this. Fitzpatrick says, “When you disobey, you are saying that what you want is more important than anything else. You have forgotten the most important thing of all: Jesus Christ was obedient unto death for the joy set before him. Do you know what that joy way? The joy that was set before him was redeeming you. Please see and know this love. His obedience is the most beautiful, important, satisfying thing in the world. As you lift your eyes to his obedience, you will be able to obey.”

We all have expectations. I think this exercise was so helpful and revealing. I encourage you to take the time to make a list of your expectations. I plan on doing a list for my husband and myself as well. Do not forget that the second half of the exercise is to place the list against the Gospel. I EXPECT God will use this in your life to bring about more of His glory.

PS: Please pray for me as I prepare to write a series for young women.