Preparing Our Field

“I heard a story of two farmers praying to God for rain to come. Both prayed but only one prepared the land. Who do you think trusted God more to send the rain?”

“Well, the farmer who prepared the land.”

Which one are you? God will send the rain when He is ready. Your job is to prepare your field to receive it.”

This dialogue may sound familiar. It’s a scene from the movie “Facing The Giants” – and it’s what flashed through my mind as I hung up the phone yesterday with the loan department from our financial institution.

Instead of delivering the good news I was hoping for – that we did, in fact qualify for the loan we need to purchase the home we had just spent the past two weeks planning to build – the loan officer announced that we had not been pre-qualified. There are other loans that we could opt to go with (and trust me… it’s tempting), but they would stretch our monthly budget beyond our area of comfort.

In the end, we decided that the wisest choice would be to wait.

Am I disappointed?

Yea, just slightly.

However, it’s a disappointment that is not without hope.

My husband and I have a few months of tending to our financial situation in order to place us in a better position to move forward with this desire to build a new house.

Purchasing a home is something we believe the Lord has in store for us in the future. Therefore, instead of continuing in the way we are currently living, we want to make a shift. We want to move, in faith, towards the direction of attaining this blessing.

I don’t know exactly how long it will take, but I believe that He put this dialogue in my mind as a way to ask me the question…

“Which farmer are you going to be?”

Now is the time for my husband and I to prepare our field.

We need to be tending and nurturing our finances.

We need to be pulling out the weeds of debt. We need to be pruning the plants that need to be cut back and fertilizing the ones we want to flourish.

This will mean making some sacrifices. This will mean choosing to live more simply.

This may even mean that I will need to give up my smart phone.

Yes, you read correctly. 🙂

Then after we tend our field, we pray and trust Him.

We trust Him to send down the rains of His blessing – in His time.

I share this with you to hopefully offer some encouragement.

Life will bring its disappointments. Things don’t always happen in the time frame, or in the way we hope for.

But, we can choose which farmer we are going to be. One who passively and apathetically cares for the field, or one who intentionally and passionately prepares the field to receive the blessing they believe the Lord will rain down on it.

 

Reaching Out To Our Neighbors for Easter

Our church showed a quick video clip this last Sunday that inspired me!

In the video, a young couple shared how they felt the Lord’s call to move their family of four to a rough neighborhood in Illinois to plant a church. A neighborhood in which you would not imagine wanting to raise young children.

They knew nobody. They had no contacts or connections.

They trusted the Lord for His provision and protection.

They began to pray about ways to reach out to the people in their neighborhood and invite them to the church they would soon be starting.

The wife shared how she had the idea of making cookies and delivering them to her neighbors.

So that is what they did!

This first encounter showed the people that they were not allowing fear of the hostile environment in the neighborhood keep them back from reaching out. Trust began to establish and relationships grew. It wasn’t long before they started to see their church attendance increase.

And it all started with cookies!

Taking cookies to neighbors may seem like a very familiar and common decency to many of us.

However, when we connect these simple acts of kindness with the power of prayer, and the intent to glorify God and His kingdom, they become something different. Something not-so-common. Something not-so-natural.

As a stay-at-home-mom, I’m convinced that my greatest mission field is the one right outside the front door of my home – to the people who I have the potential to influence on a daily basis.

My neighbors.

Also, with Easter just around the corner, I believe we Christians have an opportunity. There are many people in our spheres of influence that would normally never cross the threshold of a church. But because attending church on Easter Sunday is a cultural tradition, they may be more willing to visit.

With the inspiration from this family and the fact that Easter is quickly approaching, I decided to take my kids on a quick missions trip in our neighborhood.

We spent an afternoon this past week baking cookies. I also made a simple invitation on my computer inviting our neighbors to our church’s Easter service.

making cookies for our neighbors

Then we packed up some plates of cookies with the invitations, put them in our wagon, and set off to bless our neighbors.

Easter Invitations

Before we left, we prayed.

We asked the Lord that His presence would go before and behind us.

We asked that His blessing would be over us and our neighborhood.

We asked that He would use this simple act to minister His love and kindness.

Missions Trip To Our Neighborhood

We were able to talk with many of them, some of which we had not met before. They were all grateful that we took the time to come say ‘hello’.

I want to teach my children the importance of being a servant. Jesus Himself said to become great in His kingdom, we must serve others.This was a great, simple opportunity for us to go out and practice serving together.

Let me encourage you to ask the Lord to show you someone that you can invite to join your family at your church’s Easter Service!

 

Turning Thoughts Towards The Truth

I was out for a walk the other morning and IT. WAS. FREEZING! As soon as I took a step out the door, the thought flashed in my mind to grab my second pair of gloves to put over the pair of thin layered ones I already had on. But I was in a hurry to get out the door, so I didn’t.

Halfway through my walk my fingers were numb. No matter what I did, I could not get the sting to go away.

I should have worn those gloves!

But unfortunately, because I chose to not put them on, I was left to battle the cold without them.

I’ve been doing a study of the Armor of God by Pricilla Shirer. This past week we have been looking at the helmet of salvation. Considering the picture of the Roman soldier Paul had in mind as he described our spiritual armor, we see that the helmet was a key component in protecting a soldier’s head from enemy blows.

Likewise, the helmet of salvation is the piece of our spiritual armor that protects our minds from the attacks of our enemy.

The Lord has been convicting me that I often misuse this vital piece of armor in the same way that I did on that morning with my gloves.

God has given me a powerful, protective instrument to use in my battle against the enemy. This helmet is in my possession and available to me to use every single day.  But I cannot, and will not, experience its benefits if I choose to not put it on.

I’m hanging out over at the blog Me Too Moments For Moms today. Read the rest of “Turning Thoughts Towards The Truth” over there.

 

3 Questions To Consider When Looking For A New Church

when considering a new church

The final song was coming to a close as my husband and I walked towards the stage. One of the pastors was standing up front – we made our way towards him to express our decision. He smiled and shook both of our hands before saying a quick prayer with us. As the song reached its end, he grabbed a microphone to introduce us to the congregation as the church’s newest members. Everybody replied with a loud applause and then took a moment to bow their heads to ask the Lord for His blessing over our family and our ministry.

When the service was over, we stood in the back as people approached us with wholehearted hugs and handshakes.

A wave of joy swept through me, confirming again that we are right where the Lord wants us to be.

A couple weeks ago, our family officially became members of Central Valley Baptist Church. We have been attending services and other events there for about six months now. Over that span of time, my husband and I have been prayerfully considering if this is the church to which the Lord would have us commit ourselves.

Here are a few of the things that assisted in guiding our decision.

3 questions to consider when looking for a new church:

Are its Shepherds teaching the Truth?

In many churches today, it’s not uncommon to find preachers standing at the pulpit delivering a diluted message for the sake of appealing to the itching ears of the masses. 2 Timothy 4:2-4

I want to yoke myself, and my family, with a church whose leaders are dedicated to teaching and equipping its members in the whole truth.

Random thought: Another thing I appreciate about our new Pastor is his ability to teach a powerful message that brings glory to God, rather than himself.

There are many pastors who preach great messages, but the congregation leaves the service with the thought “he is a great preacher”. Don’t get me wrong – our pastor is an awesome preacher, but when I leave the service after hearing his sermons, I’m left with the lingering thought of “wow Lord, You are a great God!”

Is there a sense of love and unity within its community?

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35

A congregation marked by commitment to community is another key factor that carried weight in our decision. We desire to be part of a group of people who enjoy being together. People committed to loving, learning, serving, and growing as the body of Christ – united in their intent to live in pursuit of His kingdom.

Random thought: One thing I would have done differently is wait to check out the bulletin for their list of programs. The first Sunday we visited I naturally opened the bulletin to see what kind of Bible studies and children’s programs they had to offer. I wish I would have given myself some time to just observe the people, and to get a sense of the atmosphere before allowing the programs to subtly influence my opinion. Programs are great, but are constantly modifying. I personally, don’t believe they should hold much weight in determining the decision to join a church.

Is this where the Lord is calling us?

This is where it gets a bit more personal. There are many local churches that would have fulfilled the two conditions above. In the end, we chose this church because we felt it was the place the Lord was calling us to commit our time, talent, and treasure.

Although we believe the Lord made it very clear for us, discerning this calling is usually not black and white. He didn’t appear and point His finger over the building of the church He wanted us to go to. He didn’t speak to us in any audible voices telling us where He wanted us to go.

We prayed. We took time to get to know people. We attended a couple different fellowship events. We sought confirmation in His Word – all the while, asking Him for revelation.

As my husband and I discussed it further, we both sensed a peace in committing to community with this body. We are already beginning to build some great relationships and are getting involved serving in ministry.

We are excited to see what God does from here!

 

Teach Us To Want

Teach Us To WantHave you ever felt that your desires were a barrier keeping you from walking in faith and holiness? That they must be resisted and shoved aside in order to advance in the pursuit of Christ? Jen Pollock Michael, the author of Teach Us To Want, shares her struggle with these beliefs.

She writes about a time in her life that she concluded “…desire was an impediment to faith, a detour from holiness. The trap of self interest.”

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a book review. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a slow reader. I’m happy if I can get through one book a month. However, it has taken the better part of two months to get through this one – and it’s not because I’ve been too busy or haven’t made the time to read.

The reason I took so long to read through this book is because it gave me an unquenchable craving to linger.

Within its pages, Michel uses The Lord’s Prayer to walk her readers through a Biblical and comprehensive theology of desire.

The concepts she presents reveal not only a deep understanding of Biblical truth and precepts, but also a deep awareness of her own self and individuality.

Pollock’s transparency about the truth of her desires provoked a new courage in me to take an honest inventory of my own.

“..ignoring our desires may serve as the convenient way we remain ignorant and resist change.”

Desire is a tool the Lord uses to reveal the areas of our soul in which our old nature continues to influence us. It reveals the state of a heart’s condition. Therefore, instead of choosing to resist our desires we should be genuinely identifying, naming, and examining them.

When we investigate our desires through the lens of God’s truth we are able to clearly see the areas that need to be touched by the transforming power of sanctification. We can see our ambitions, dreams and longings as He does. And because He a loving and good Father we can boldly take our wants and longings to His throne of grace, knowing He will gently take them into His hands and form their shape into vessels for carrying His purposes.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ~Psalm 139:23-24

I recommend this book for anyone who longs to long more for His kingdom and glory.

3 2 1… Launch Homeschool – Goals for Kindergarten

Announcement: We have started Kindergarten in our home!

Uhhh, wait… Doesn’t school usually begin at the end of August?

Yep, sure does. 🙂

But, since baby #3 will be arriving in July we have decided to get a head start.

After much prayer I have made some decisions as to how we will approach this school year.

Here are our goals for Kindergarten:

I want it to be God glorifying – My first and foremost goal is that homeschooling would be rooted in glorifying God within the hearts and minds of my precious children. Character study and scripture memory are a high priority and will be woven into our daily rhythms of activity and play.

I want it to be joyful – I want this first year to establish a precedent of fun and adventure in learning at home. From reading, to baking, to exploring nature, to even daily chores, I want learning to be exciting and enjoyable.

I want it be memorable – I want to stuff this season full of memories. I want it to be a time of creating moments with my family that we can look back on and treasure forever.

I want it to be simple – This is a MUST! I’m not a teacher – I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing. For this year the curriculum needs to be easily adaptable to our schedule and one which will allow for a smooth introduction and transition into homeschooling.

I want it to be effective – At this age their minds are sponges. Therefore, I want to focus on soaking up scripture and biblical concepts as well as phonics and developing reading skills. I believe these are foundational building blocks in the learning process.

After prayer, research and talking with many other home-school families in our church, we have chosen My Father’s World for our curriculum. Kindergarten through 3rd grade focuses on learning about God and His world, how to read and write, and an overview of history from Creation to the present.

I’m confident this will be a great resource to assist our family in reaching these goals for Kindergarten.

So here we go!

1st day of kindergarten

 

5 Great Bible Studies For When We Are Consumed

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

There is nothing more rewarding than digging into the rich soil of God’s Word. I love when the Holy Spirit reveals those jewels hidden beneath the surface.

Over the past few years I have had some amazing mentors who helped to fashion my desire for digging – looking into historical and cultural settings; taking words back to the original language; looking up cross-references; making list after list.

I love it!

But let’s get real for a sec…

Sometimes the seasons of life demand compacting and consolidating those hours we wish we could spend excavating God’s Word.

Over the past few years, there have been seasons which have required me to give much more of myself to my family. Many of those early morning hours that I would spend in study must sometimes now be spent in ministering to my children.

However, simplifying does not have to mean sacrificing!

I have found many great studies that have allowed me to simplify my time spent without sacrificing rich content. Thought I would share a few of them with you!

Here are 5 great Bible studies when we are consumed.

Each of these took me about 20-30 minutes/day. Of course, if time allows you can always delve a little deeper.

Lord I Want To Know You – Kay Arthur

Explore the many names of God throughout the Bible and how they directly relate to attributes of His character. The names of God define who He is. I’ve gone through this one twice now. AMAZING!

 

 

Live Deeply – Lenya Heitzig and Penny Rose

Take a closer look at the parables of Jesus. Through the help of the Holy Spirit we have the ability to discern and decipher the precious truths that Jesus is communicating about the Kingdom of God.

 

Brave – Angela Thomas

In this study the author, Angela Thomas, discusses honest questions that women ask about topics that we often secretly struggle with.

Why am I always worn out? Why can’t I get disciplined? Why am I broken? Why am I so easily prone to fear?…to name just a few.

 

Living A Life of True Worship – Kay Arthur

What does it mean to worship God in Spirit and Truth? How do the instructions for acceptable worship, which God gave His people in the Old Testament, apply to us today? The answers to these questions are what you will discover as you walk through this study.

 

 

Armor of God – Prisilla Shirer

The armor of God. What is it? Why do we need it? How do we wear and walk in it? What is the one piece that many of us leave out? I’m actually still in the midst of this study!! It has been so good that I had to include it in this list.

 

A Little Encouragement

If you are struggling to find time to set aside to be alone with the Lord and His Word, let me first say that I completely understand!

Life seems to come in intervals, some of which demand all of us!

But please let me encourage you to not forsake this sacred, daily time of soaking up His Word, even if you can only spend a few minutes at a time.

His Word is our daily bread. It is that which sustains us; it gives us life and strength.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” ~Matthew 4:4

When Mustard Seeds Don’t Move Mountains

Photo Credit

I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move… ~Matthew 17:20

She sits over the stillness of her husband frailty. She prays. She cries out to her God to heal the disease that has been slowly pulling the threads from the fabric of his life.

She asks. She seeks. She believes.

…Her husband dies.

 

Her one desire is to bear her own child. After years of struggle, she continues to hope. Her faith waivers in moments, but is never fully shaken. She believes that God wants to and will give her this longing of her heart.

She lives out the remainder of her childbearing years in faith.

…It’s a faith that never sees manifestation.

 

These two women held mustard seeds.

They both believed. They both had hope.

They both had faith.

Many times they had cast their seeds at the mountain placed in front of them – but the mountain never moved.

Why? Oh God, why?

Doesn’t Your Word say that faith like a mustard seed can move mountains?

Isn’t it Your desire to answer our prayers? Especially the prayers prayed in faith?

Yes. The answer is yes.

So the question rises..

Why do mustard seeds, sometimes not move mountains?

I’m hanging out over at the blog “Me Too Moments For Moms” today. Come read the rest of “When Mustard Seeds Don’t Move Mountains” over there.

 

 

Content With Less – The Blessings of a Small Home

Blessings of a small home

“You need to watch your attitude.”

This phrase must have a replay button connected to my mouth – and my children seem to know exactly where to find it.

I have caught myself saying this over and over to them the past couple weeks.

But the thing is, I probably need to be saying it to myself a whole lot more than I have been to them.

I’ve been seriously lacking motivation in my role as homemaker. The other day when I finally figured out that I should take my apathy to the Lord, I almost immediately heard this same phrase replay in my mind.

“You need to watch your attitude.”

(sigh)

It’s so true.

I can’t STAND this kitchen, it has zero counter space.

We REALLY need another bedroom!

I would love to get my sewing machine out but – oh that’s right….I HAVE NO SPACE FOR IT!

Where in the world am I going to put all the things I’m need for the new baby?

These are just a few of the thoughts that have been streaming through mind over the past few days.

A bad attitude sure doesn’t leave much aptitude for gratitude.

My house really is not that small. However, it is definitely smaller than what we came from.

So, I’m setting out on a little mission. I’m going to choose thankfulness over thanklessness. Gratitude over attitude.

I’m resolving to be content with less and focus on the blessings of a small home:

Less to clean

A smaller home means less to clean. Less counter space to wipe; less floors to mop; fewer windows to clean; fewer toilets to scrub.

Less to be watchful over

With two small children in the home and another on the way, I want to be ever mindful of what each child is doing and where they are at any given point during the day. A smaller home means fewer places for little feet to wander and get into things. It also means there are less areas to check for lights, fans and other things that may have been left on.

Less to budget

A larger home doesn’t only mean more space, it usually means more monthly income to budget for rent/mortgage. Living in a smaller house is a reason why I don’t have to work and am able to be home with my children. I’m so grateful for this time I have to be with them!

Less to clutter

Give me some space and I’ll fill it with clutter – that’s how things work around here. Less space means things must be put away a whole lot faster than they do in a larger house.

Less effort to create the atmosphere

With a larger home, it seemed as though I was working harder to construct the atmosphere I was aiming to create. Here, I can hang a couple pictures on the walls, light a candle, and voila! My Christmas decor this year consisted of one lighted garland, a couple stockings, and a simple banner I made out of some hemp twine, construction paper, and a sharpie. Simple!

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An Important Lesson from a Penguin Who Wanted To Fly

lesson from a penguin who wanted to fly

Her bedtime ritual has become quite treasured. Each night she chooses the book we will read together before lights go out and the dreams begin dancing in her head.

This night she had chosen a book about a penguin who wanted to fly.

The poor little penguin! Try as he may, he just couldn’t get his wings to lift his feet off the ground. Then the snow plane that he made melted in the afternoon sun, and the balloon he inflated to carry him into the sky popped, sending him crashing to the ground. Then finally, his polar bear friend pushed him down an ice slide, launching him into the sea.

It was there the little penguin realized that he couldn’t fly, but that was ok – because he could swim. He could swim very well!

Daughter: “Mom, why couldn’t the penguin fly?”
Me: “Because God created penguins to swim!”
Daughter: “Oh. Well what did God create me to do?”

Precious Lord, give me the words …

Me: “God created you so that He could love you – and that you can love Him back!”
Daughter: I see a spark light in her eye as she quickly turns to look at me “Oh yea! I knew that!”
Me: “Isn’t that amazing that God loves us so much that He would create us just to love us?!?”
Daughter: nods her head in agreement

In these days of early motherhood, it can become so easy for us mamas to fall into the pit of thinking that our lives have become depleted of meaning – reduced to the monotony of the daily rhetoric.

I’m hanging out over at the blog “Me Too Moments For Moms” today. Come read the rest of An Important Lesson from a Penguin Who Wanted To Fly over there.