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Devotions

Sunday Traditions

We have a Sunday tradition in our home. Not every Sunday, but as often as possible. Schedules get in the way sometimes, bills happen, projects around the house have to get done, but we still try to make our tradition happen.

What is our tradition? Dunkin Donuts.

Cora was very excited to get her donut…

So was Emma!

So was Emma!

Sometimes we just get donuts, other times we are able to get a full breakfast, but we try to make it to Dunkins as many Sundays as possible. It has become important family time for us. We’ve been going since Emma was little, when she couldn’t even eat a donut. Now she’s able to tell us, quite matter-of-factly, exactly what donut she wants.

Daddy picked out their donuts...

Daddy picked out their donuts…

Strawberry frosted, with crushed Oreos... Wow...

Strawberry frosted, with crushed Oreos… Wow…

Both girls get sticky and bouncy from the sugar, but these are memories that we can share for a long time. We laugh, we share bites of our different donuts, we make plans for the rest of our day… We all look forward to it all week long.

Do you have any family traditions? Maybe weekly or monthly? Even yearly? How long have you had those traditions? Are they simple or extravagant? Mostly, what is your favorite part of sharing those traditions with your family?

Devotions

The Cadence of Grace Series by Joanne Bischof

This series of three books is one that definitely needs to be read together.  While you can read just the first book you won’t get the depth of the grace that Joanne Bischof wants you to read about.  Also, you will want all three because you won’t be able to wait to find out what happens next in them.

This series is based in the Blue Ridge mountains and is the story of Lonnie and Gideon.  Lonnie is shy and innocent. Gideon is worldly and has a past.  Both are about to learn what grace is and how it will forever change them.

This beautifully crafted book teaches what grace/selfless love is.  Each and every character will wrestle with what selfless love is and will learn to offer it.

Joanne Bischof weaves a tale of relationships with others but most of all God.  She doesn’t write in “preachy” way but lets the story speak for itself and the God who speaks to the hearts of the characters.  I like that each character has their own moments with God, whether it is what they want to do or not, they hear and heed His voice.

When I finished with the series I felt as if I had walked the mountains with each of the characters and come to know them better.  Every reader has their favorite characters but Joanne Bischof writes the characters in such a way that you cannot help but root for each of them in their own way.  To me the ending was less of a rowdy cheer, but more of the sweet peace that hope was found in selfless love.

I highly recommend reading the whole series.  Each book builds on each other, not only the story, but also that of what God is teaching them.  Each book is appropriately titled and really speak to the message of the book.

Devotions

A More Acceptable Offering

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” (Hebrews 4:11, ESV)

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I love the faith chapter. And I have read it many times. But I read it a few months ago and this verse really caught my attention, and I’ve thought about it frequently since then. I want to ask you a question, and once I’ve asked it, please stop reading to answer it for yourself before you read further. You also may want to take a minute or two to read the story in Genesis 4:2-7 before you answer. So, here goes: What made Abel’s sacrifice more acceptable than Cain’s?


Personally, I’ve always just thought that Abel was following what God had asked and Cain wasn’t, and this is true. Abel sacrificed unblemished sheep, just like God asked for, while Cain eventually began to bring God offerings from his farming produce, which was not what God had asked for. But honestly, I think that’s only a part of what made Abel’s sacrifice “more acceptable.”

To get to the bottom of how Abel’s sacrifice was more acceptable to God, I actually think we have to take a look at why Cain’s offering was less acceptable. So, I’m going to point out a few things that I noticed when I studied this. Consider this a miniature Bible study if you will. All of my references to the Bible are from the ESV.

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In Genesis 4:3, it says that “In the course of time, Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground.” This suggests to me that at first, Cain was bringing to God a different offering, perhaps offerings of sheep like God had asked. So what made Cain change what type of offering he was bringing to God? Well, Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain was a farmer. Maybe in the course of time in his heart he began to feel like the fruits of his labor should be just as worthy to give to God as the fruits of his brother’s labors. I think this is possible explanation, because in verse 7, God tells Cain that “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” This makes it sound like Cain had not yet sinned, even though he was not bringing the offerings that God asked for, but that God was warning him that if he didn’t make some changes, that sin would take control of him. I think that Cain was beginning to have pride and self-sufficiency building in his heart by thinking that what he could offer to God should be a worthy offering. If this were the case, then Cain would be bringing offerings to God not because in his heart he wanted to please God, but rather because of a pridefulness of heart.

Another reason I think that Cain’s offering was less acceptable is because I believe that God asked for a lamb as a sacrifice in order to point them to the plan of God’s salvation– to Jesus as Messiah. God wanted them to understand that He would provide the way of reconciliation through the Lamb of God. Every time they offered a lamb up to God, it was to be a reminder to them of how God would one day save them. By Cain offering something other than a lamb, he was in essence ignoring the message that God wanted to speak to his heart. And when we begin to turn away from the voice of God (whether it be audible, through symbols, or the writing in His Word), sin is crouching at the door, just waiting for an opportunity to seize our hearts.

When we stop looking to Jesus as our Savior and turn our hearts away from the voice of God, we are placing ourselves further away from God’s reach.

The final reason I think that Abel’s sacrifice was more acceptable to God is because I believe that it was an offering given from a pure heart, a heart wanting to worship God. Abel wanted to do well, to please God and follow his instructions. Cain, on the other hand, was not bringing offerings in an attempt to please God; rather, his offering became a pharisaical offering from a prideful heart. I believe that it wasn’t necessarily Cain’s offering itself that God was not regarding (although I think that was important too), but rather the half-hearted, going-through-the-motions way that Cain was bringing his “sacrifices” to God that made God reject his offerings. Cain was not loving and worshipping God with all of his heart.

So now, the heart of the matter, the reason that any of what I’ve said matters, is this: What kind of sacrifice are you giving to God? Are you bringing to God your whole heart and the best that you have to give in your worship time, your actions, your spending habits, your prayer life? Are you worshipping God in the ways that He has asked and following him? Or are you, like Cain, in need of heeding God’s warning that sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you. I ask you these questions, not as a pious person, but as someone who is in need of asking the same question of myself each and every day. I, too, need to be searching my heart to know whether I am giving to God the very best I have, not out of pride, but out of a desire to please and worship Him.

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“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:8-15)

Devotions

Hope Hurts

Matthew and I were talking in the car about my aching heart and waiting to be matched in our adoption, and I said, “I don’t know if I should just mentally prepare that it will be another year, or keep hoping.  Hoping is painful.”

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Since that little conversation I have felt God showing me hope in the scriptures.  So I decided to dig deeper.  I did a study on the word hope, and I focused on the Old Testament.

I am addicted to this word and the meanings of it.  For all it represents and for how I am hoping onto hope—how I am bearing hope.

Here is what I found.

Hope is mainly translated in these ways in the Old Testament:

  • Expectation
  • Refuge
  • Trust
  • Wait
  • Be patient
  • Something waited for
  • To writhe in pain or fear

That last one especially made my eyes grow big in wonder.  God knows.

Hope is complicated.

It is full of expectation.  The kind that feels like sparkling water inside my chest.  Hope is a refuge when I can’t figure things out.  I hide in the refuge of hope because it cradles my heart’s dreams.

Hope is trustTrust in a God I cannot see and the promises I cannot see fulfilled.  Hope is to wait. Oh, the agony of this wait. Yet, if there were no wait, there would be no reason to hope because it would be already here.  So hope is truly something waited for.

But hope is not without pain or fear.  Indeed, hope is to writhe in pain or fear.  It is to tremble and travail.  This wait leaves us wounded and grieved.  Shaken.  Yet in the same painful hope we tarry, stay, waiting, trusting.  Because hope is all these things.  In this pain and fear we learn patience—which comes from this experience we are in—which leads back to hope.

And despite it all, hope does NOT disappoint us because God has pour out His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Whom He has given us (Romans 5:1-5).

And one day, this hope of writing pain and fear will be hope that dances.

The depth of the word hope is assuring.  All these feelings I feel with hope are real and validated here.  Hope is complicated.  And hope does hurt

But I hold on.

Because hope does not disappoint.

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May you too, hold on to hope even though there is pain in this waiting and expectation.  Do not give up.  Trust and wait in the refuge of God and know that your patience is not in vain.  God is pouring His love into your heart through the Holy Spirit during waiting and hoping…and remember God has said that hope does not disappoint.  Hold on to hope.  Hold on to God.

Devotions

Bearing Hope

Hope is a crazy thing.  I have never before dealt with hope the way I have recently.  I have often thought about hope as a beautiful and happy thing.  But what I am experiencing now is that hope is not only this beautiful thing but it is also this hard and painful thing. Hope is what you have while waiting for something, and if you have ever waiting for something very dear and precious you will understand this. 

My friend shared this book Bearing Hope on her Facebook page and just the synopsis grabbed me.  This book was for me.  It was written for me now.  So I bought it.  And read it in two days.  I was famished spiritually for the truths that were in it.

Here is the synopsis:  Longing for a child is like trudging through a desert. It’s a long, hard, lonely journey. The outcome is unclear and hope is often in short supply. But there is great news. You are not alone. And there is hope! This book is your inspirational companion, your “Desert Sherpa,” guiding you through a personal journey of healing. Within these pages you’ll find inspiring quotes and stories of women who have walked where you walk. You’ll find a way to give grace to people who say the wrong things, dump your burden bag, and recognize the hand of God in your story. Liv shares the good, bad, and ugly from her story and faith journey. She offers Biblical encouragement and hope that will quench your thirsty heart like rain in the desert. Whether or not you ever bear a child, you can still bear hope!

I loved that it allowed me to grieve. Sometimes I feel that in Christian books they can sometimes gloss over the pain. And then it shows you how God is near and you are not alone and there is hope. Bearing Hope is a perfect title because you aren’t always bearing a child but the hope for/of a child, and it is painful and hard but God is with us in it.

Liv Ryan is a gem of an author and person.  She agreed to share here about writing Bearing Hope as well as giveaway a SIGNED copy of her book.  I know that this book is going to be a blessing to so many people.

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Liv is a Midwest native who lives to inspire women to bear and share hope with the world. She is part-time writer and speaker and a full-time wifey, mommy, and coffee drinker. Hands down her favorite activity is Wednesday night date night, but tickling her three miracle babies is a close second. She heavily relies on her people, the Word, and foodie food to keep her sane. She survived the desert of waiting once upon a thirsty time, and lives to tell you that you will too. She sneaks away to write at livryan.com.

Here are her own words about her book.

Writing this book was a bittersweet adventure. “Bearing Hope” sure wasn’t the book I thought I would write when I quit my job to become a writer, 11 weeks pregnant with our first baby.

But our best laid plans aren’t always the ones God has for us.

My first day as a “stay at home mom/wife/writer” was the day I found out that our baby’s heart was no longer beating.

That was the start of what would be quite a long journey of loss, one that zapped me of any energy for the happy, inspirational things I had once planned to write about. It took over my life. Pregnancy, miscarriage, repeat. It was a pattern my husband and I couldn’t seem to break through. Along the way, we endured a failed adoption.

My goodness, though, you guys. God was doing a work in my heart through the big, fat mess. He was showing me how much I idolized becoming a parent. He was revealing my desperate need for His strength and grace.

He was the water I would have perished without in the desert of waiting.

Along the way, He gave me a dream to create a companion for women going through the same. (Because HOLY MOSES was it lonely. And tiring. And dark. I didn’t have the strength to lift my own head. I needed to borrow some courage and hope.)

It took me three years to complete the book, because way back when, I didn’t have much hope to share. But I’m in a different place now, and not just because I have three beautiful miracles through adoption and a biological miracle.

God has brought me into a spacious place because of His grace, and I dare not take it for granted.

He has charged me to write and speak and gush about his legit, never-gonna-let-you-down hope.

Hear me: I know you feel like tears are your food sometimes. But there is a day coming on which tears will never be able to roll down your beautiful cheeks. When that day comes, you and I will taste lasting fulfillment. And it will be glorious.

But for now, I am honored to bring to you this book that dares you to bear hope, whether or not you ever bear a child. Bearing Hope was brought to you by years of sweat, blood, and tears. And it’s here to be your inspiring, joy-filled, understanding, REAL friend with plenty of hope to share.

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There is a GIVEAWAY of an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Bearing Hope. 

Here is how to enter:

Share this blog on social media using #bearinghope AND #establishedingrace (Leave a comment here where you have shared it so we can check it out.)

Each time and place you share it will give you an extra point toward your name to win the autographed copy of Bearing Hope by Liv Ryan! So share and spread the word!

Giveaway will end midnight September 29th and we will randomly choose a winner and contact you as well as post it here.  So don’t forget to check back!

Devotions

Toilet Paper on the Floor

I am surprised at how different the reality of being a parent is from the expectations I had before my son was born. I felt like everywhere I looked people were complaining about parenting: how hard being a parent is, how tired they were from being a parent and how they could not wait until they had alone time. Since I am now on this end looking back, I don’t think they gave the whole picture of being a parent. Yes, being a parent is tiring, hard and I love it when I can take a break to clean and organize my whole house check pinterest for the 3rd 10th time today to get ideas I am totally going to never going to do. Instead of dwelling on the negatives I want to mention a few of the infinite reasons why being a parent is so much better than I ever imagined.

Reason #1 Before I became a parent, I was a math teacher at a public high school. I love teaching and one of the things that drove me in the classroom was seeing my students learn something they did not know before. If I could make it entertaining, my students might even enjoy learning the subject too. Now, as a parent, I love watching Jack discover new things. Jack started climbing the stairs a couple weeks ago. Phil let him do it and if, given the chance, Jack can “run” and climb our stairs, he will. Did I mention that he can’t walk yet? He clambers up the stairs, huffing and puffing as he goes. (I am right behind him to make sure he is ok.) You can tell he loves doing it too!

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Reason #2 So Reason #1 is Jack discovering climbing. Reason #2 is Jack learning there is a baby swing in his room, making a baby motion for me to put him into this swing (A baby motion is Jack starting to climb into this swing not realizing how much it swings and almost falling out of it) and helping him swing. (This baby swing is the type you put your 1 month old in to so you can check pinterest organize your closet.) The swinging lasts for 7 seconds before he is climbing on top of it. He loves this and will do it for far longer than I want to watch him. (We are planning on moving that swing.)

Reason #3 At the park today they had a curved bridge on the playground. I would never have noticed it but Jack was having a hard time crawling over it due to his socks being attached to his PJs and the material of the playground. He kept slipping. I would wedge my foot so that he could use it as a hold and could crawl over it. Sometimes I wouldn’t get my foot there in time and he would start to slip. Instead of getting frustrated, he would giggle. He then started going over it and would want to slip so that he could continue the fun. I think we spent 10 minutes just him starting to crawl up the bridge, slipping and then giggling.

Reason #4 Jack has discovered the toilet roll and how, when you hit it just right, you can have paper fly everywhere. To be honest, I think it’s pretty neat and would do it myself until I remember that we are paying for that roll of toilet paper. Now I just reroll it when he starts doing it and he can do it a couple more times.

Reason #5 Jack’s giggles

Reason #6 Jack eating anything. He can out eat most people I know.

Reason #7 Next door to my parents, there is a brown/tannish dog. One day my dad and Jack were walking by and it started barking.  Jack looked at it and started barking back.  The next day, there were some deer in the backyard. Jack took one look at those deer and started barking at them. Luckily he doesn’t understand me when I tell him he’s wrong. It’s really cute hearing him bark.

I am surprised that God blessed me with being Jack’s momma. Being a parent has also reminded me of one of Jesus’ promises. In Luke 12:32, Jesus states “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” At some point, Jack is going to develop some fear. Fear of heights (he has to develop something so he can stop heading to those stairs!), fear of sharks (ask his daddy), fear of velociraptors (don’t ask) fear of a lot of things. This scares me that he might develop a fear about not receiving the kingdom. But Jesus reminds us (and Jack) to not _mg_2079fear and, more important, that He wants to give us the kingdom. I cannot imagine what the kingdom will be like but there are many beautiful verses that give us small glimpses. Besides those verses, one of my favorite glimpses of the kingdom has to be a 1 year old pulling on a toilet roll until all the paper has disappeared.. Or a 1 year old climbing into a too small swing… or barking… or… you get the idea. Just imagine a baby giggling.

What are some reasons why being a parent is so much better than you ever imagined?  Leave a comment below and I will add the best to this list.
Check out Ashley’s description of a day with children who are a little bit older than Jack. Especially pay attention to their paintbrushes.

 

Updated 9/25/2016

Here are more comments about being a parent.

Beth-Anne writes: “Seeing the world through my sons eyes, getting a view and deeper view of God, slowing down and not being as productive, snuggles….I could go on and on”

Amber writes: “One of my favorite parts of being a parent is that moment when a habit or principle or something that I’ve been trying to teach Rachael finally clicks with her… and suddenly it’s her own”

Tima writes: “Best part about being a parent – Last night I had four warm, sticky, sweaty arms wrap around me and two little voices say I love you. They melt my heart!”

Remember to sign up for the free autographed book! You have until September 29!

 

 

Devotions

Expressions of Beauty

It is amazing to me the capacity that we have to create and enjoy beautiful things.

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Whenever I am taking pictures of a field lit up with the day’s dying light or flowers in the sunshine, or any nature scene, I am always astounded by how much more beautiful the scenery/object is looking through my own eyes rather than captured by a camera lens. Our eyes are incredibly skilled at taking in scenes of beauty. I think God created us that way because He wanted us to be able to appreciate and enjoy the things that He made for us. I think that He wants us to be a little bit in awe and wonder at the world we see because He is its Creator, and as such, it bears His mark. When God created this world, He was putting on display a piece of Himself, of His own heart and mind.

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Very recently, I spent a day in Washington, D.C. with my parents and my husband. As much as I hate the hassle of trying to get anywhere in D.C., seeing all the ornate buildings and experiencing different aspects of art, culture, and history makes it well worth the effort. We weren’t able to see very many things because we didn’t have much time, but we did stumble upon an incredible museum and display by accident.

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I had never been to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery before, and we ended up there mostly to escape the heat and because the entrance intrigued Timothy. In any case, it was a good find because they have a display going on (until January 2017) called Turquoise Mountain that is just captivating.

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The display highlights artisans from Afghanistan who are hoping to reshape and rejuvenate the art culture of their country after so many years of war and destruction.

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It included many different things from jewelry and pottery to painting and woodworking.

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As we walked through, I was in a sort of dazed state of wonder at the beauty and intricacy of everything, and with the woodworking in particular I just felt compelled to touch and trace all the details. It was so beautiful.

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And I couldn’t help but be amazed. To think that humans are capable of creating such beauty made me reflect on what an incredible gift God has given us. Not only did He create beauty for us to appreciate, but He also gave us the ability to make beautiful things. We can create beauty, through our art, our words, our music, and even our actions. And when we make something beautiful, it bears our mark, a piece of ourselves.While I was contemplating all these things, I began to think about Genesis 1:26.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness.’” (ESV)

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This verse could be taken to mean many things. But in the context of what I had been thinking about, it made me realize that just as each of the pieces of art that I saw in the museum were expressions of the artists who made them, we too, are an expression of our Creator. We were created in God’s image; we are each a beautiful piece of art that He made as a reflection and expression of Himself and His glory. We bear His mark.

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“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:27, 31, ESV)

Devotions

The Bible Stumps Me Sometimes

Have any of you tried to read your way through the Bible? I kinda am right now. For someone who likes to be organized I am in no way going about it in a uniform way. I read a whole book through and then move on to another one somewhere else in my Bible. For instance, right now I am reading Job. Before that, I had just finished up with the minor prophets, then Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. I am not even sure that I am naming those in order of my reading. Either way, I am getting through.

Something else I am doing is using these Bible highlighters that are made out of wax. It keeps the color from bleeding through the thin pages. I have 6 colors that I keep all in order of the rainbow (at least that is organized) and I use them based on different things that I am looking for. I use green for promises, blue for anything about the new & old covenant, pink for God’s compassion & love, yellow for semi interesting ideas, orange for “IT’s AWESOME” or anything to do with the mind, sight, or light, and then finally purple is my miscellaneous wild card (there are so many awesome things in the Bible so I don’t want to make it too orange). Using the highlighters helps me know that I completed something as well as give me something to go back to.

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I have been pretty happy with my system, but right now I am stumped. Being in Job I thought it would really move me, but I find it hard to highlight anything that Job’s friends say because… well… they weren’t really nice. It has left me a little confused. Why does God leave something that isn’t necessarily His Truth and Light to grace the pages of His love letter? Because of my fear of highlighting and coming back later to interpret that one verse wrong, it got me thinking.

I then went out for a run and started to contemplate what I read in Job. It’s at one point in the conversation with the friends that Job goes on a rant about how the good and wicked both die. That we are all in the same boat. No one is discriminated under God’s hands. This made me realize that no matter where I go in life, there will be things to discern. The Truth will not always come prepackaged, wrapped in a blue bow, and addressed to us Christians. We have to do a little wading through the muck to get through to the good stuff. The good will sometimes look like the bad and vice versa.

Sometimes we have to face situations that are like Job’s not-so-friends in order to really understand the true definition of God’s character and His Light. Not to mention that we need to continually ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. Our own minds are tainted by sin! But here is the happy part. 🙂 Because of the experience that Job had, one that the devil put him through, he came out stronger in his faith and was blessed even more than before the trial!

Being stumped doesn’t always mean an end. Sometimes it is only the beginning of a blessing that is so outside of our imagination, that we can only deem it possible when it happens. Keep reading friends!

Devotions

Because He Is

As the school year begins, I’m reminded of something that happened about a month ago. First, let me catch you up on the whole story.

Last year, before starting the homeschooling journey, my husband and I prayed and made it abundantly clear that we were following His will. Leading up to and throughout Rachael’s kindergarten year, God opened doors and knocked down barriers in ways we never imagined. My work decreased from four days a week to two, giving me the time to homeschool, and finally I was let go from my job, enabling me to be home full-time. We weren’t ready to give up the income, but God has provided for our needs and our family has been so blessed by me being home. Rachael is my stepdaughter, and while Brian was totally on board with homeschooling, her mom had to also agree with that decision. Oh, how I worried about that one (with much insecurity)! Yet, God opened doors again and we are homeschooling with her blessing, support, and encouragement.12184094_1721888148045758_7115415677474528240_o

It often seems like when God opens doors and makes His will the clearest, that is when Satan attacks the hardest and throws the most doubts and insecurities my way.

A little over a month ago, I arranged to have the day to myself to plan out our school year. On that particular day, I spent the first hour of my time angry, hurt and in tears, because of a comment someone made to me. The comment was made innocently and most likely with the best of intentions and a heart full of love, but stirred up those doubts and insecurities that I had buried.

Would I be able to homeschool and have an infant? Would Rachael get the education and attention she needed, while I adjusted to meeting the demands of a newborn? Was I enough? Was I crazy to think that I could handle all of this? What if I couldn’t?

I think that as women, we all have doubts and insecurities. Doubts about overselves, doubts about our sufficiency, worth, ability. You name it, and we’ve probably had insecurity or doubt about it at one point or another.

While I processed my feelings, I arrived at this undeniable truth that remains, no matter how Satan tries to shake it with insecurities, doubts, fears, circumstances, etc. Ya’ll, this is HUGE, but it’s so beautiful and simple!

I am able, because He is able.

Fill in some blanks with whatever it is you need. I am _________________, because God is ____________________.

Do you feel inadequate? You are adequate, because He is all sufficient (2 Cor. 9:8).

Do you doubt your ability? You can, because He is able to do exceedingly above all we ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21).

Do you doubt your worth? You are worthy, because He gave His life for you (John 3:16).

You are, because He is.

When I doubt, it is often because rather than keeping my eyes on Jesus, I am looking at myself. I am nothing without Christ, but when I am filled with His Spirit, I am capable of being and doing anything He has called me to be and do!

Once again, God in His gentle way said to me, “It’s not about you. It’s about Me.”

Devotions

Hidden Masterpiece Series by Kristy Cambron

Today I’m having my mom, Trudy Koeffler, share her reviews on these two fantastic books.  I have read them myself and loved them.  Here are her words:

The Butterfly and the Violin:

This book blended history, romance, intrigue and faith in a page turning, though provoking way.  I read a lot of history fiction regarding WWII but I learned things in this book that I never knew before.  I was also impressed with the way faith was woven naturally into the story by the characters’ lives and conversations.  The thoughts expressed by the characters were real, down to earth, honest.  The story made me think about what I would have done had I lived during those hard times.  Although the book dealt with some distressing issues it was a joyful book because it clearly showed the hope we have in God in all circumstances.

Sparrow in Terezin:

It was time for bed and I was just going to read a chapter before I went to sleep.  But when I started to read this book I couldn’t put it down and continued non-stop!  This is exactly how GOOD this book is!  This story will break your heart with its pathos and yet put it back together with the beauty of unconditional love and courage during the vileness of human atrocities.

Cambron weaves a story of modern day art collectors who face fierce trials in their professional and personal lives.  The story goes back and forth between their modern day lives and the life of woman journalist during WWII that gets sent to a concentration camp.  There are mysteries to be solved, questions of loyalty and who one can really trust and what does it mean to truly do as Jesus would do.

Carefully crafted with detailed historical accuracy blended with the human spirit of grit, hope and endurance combined with a faith the holds on with amazing love – This story is one that you will not forget.

Her conclusion:

These books are breathtaking in their raw pain that is superseded by God’s grace and love lived out by individuals in immense struggle.

Devotions

One Heartbeat at a Time

This week has flown by. I forgot I had a post due today until Krystal texted me this morning. Is it really that time already?

I’ve tried to start this post a few times, but I have to keep setting my laptop down to help my girls with one crisis or another. Isn’t that how motherhood goes? The kids don’t need you until you sit down and look busy. Or need to make a phone call, or want to take a shower…..

Just one of the messes I've cleaned up this morning.

Just one of the messes I’ve cleaned up this morning.

And now my husband and I are adding a third child to our circus. Yes, I’m pregnant with Baby 3. We were surprised, we had been talking about another baby, but in a “Not right now” kind of way. But God has other plans, obviously!

I have several days when my kids are exceptionally needy or grumpy or overactive when I just sit on the couch and wonder, How am I going to do this with three? Three kids fighting over who gets to sit in my lap. Three kids arguing over which book to read at bedtime. Three kids with three different ideas on what they want for breakfast. Three kids running the loop between the living room and kitchen.

Just thinking about all that makes me tired.

I adopted the Mom Look a while ago. You know the one. Messy bun, hubby’s t-shirt, and comfy pants. Sometimes the same outfit for more than one day in a row. I tried getting out of the Mom Look rut by buying some nice shirts, new jeans, make-up… But then I got pregnant. Now none of it fits.

We are homeschooling, so mix that with being a stay-at-home-mom and we can go a week without leaving the house. That usually means my kids run around in last night’s pjs, or more likely just underwear. It saves on laundry, so that’s a plus…

I can only imagine what goes through my husbands mind when he discovers that we are all wearing the exact same thing we wore yesterday…

But.

We have colored and practiced writing letters and played hide and seek. Emma is learning how to read. Cora is learning how to draw more than scribbles. My kids have tea parties, dance parties, fancy hair parties. We are learning Bible stories and memory verses. My kids are both saying prayers at meals and bedtime. The endless cycle of dishes and laundry and picking up toys is interrupted often by two little girls wanting to help.

 

They started out using paint brushes...

They started out using paint brushes…

 

...but obviously using their fingers was much more fun!

…but obviously using their fingers was much more fun!

Even listing everything we do during a day, I still get to the end of the day and wonder if I really accomplished anything. There’s still dirty laundry and dishes. The floor is still covered with toys. The table it still covered with paperwork and mail and school worksheets. The couch is still covered with crumbs.

This morning I was making breakfast for my girls (read:pouring cereal into bowls) and wondering what on earth I had to write about. Then a line from a song started playing over and over in my head.

You are changing the world one little heartbeat at a time.

Some of you may recognize the song. It’s “One Heartbeat at a Time” by Steven Curtis Chapman.

For some reason, that line really hit me this morning. Maybe because just last week we were able to hear our baby’s heartbeat, so it’s fresh in my mind. We are bringing a third precious little heartbeat into our lives. Most of the care of that little heartbeat falls on me, along with the two other little heartbeats we already have.

I may feel like I’ve accomplished nothing in a day, but I’m changing the world.

So are you.

The video below was made for Mother’s Day, which today is not. But nonetheless, it’s a beautiful video. Enjoy the song, take it to heart. And try not to cry. Hopefully you accomplish that last one better than I did.

Devotions

Miracles Don’t Always Look the Same

For a while now I have been reading through the Gospels.  I go slowly, one section at a time.  So I am only in Mark (and I get distracted by other studies, so I don’t always read the Gospels everyday). It was reading in Mark, however that I suddenly became aware of how different miracles can look.

Here are some examples:

  • Jesus took Simon’s mother-in-law’s hand and the fever left her.
  • A man with leprosy comes to Jesus and says, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus touches the man, says, “I am willing. Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy is gone.
  • Paralytic man is lowered through the room to Jesus.  Jesus says He forgives the man’s sins.  Then says to take up his bed and walk, and the man gets up and walks out praising God.
  • A demon-possessed man runs at Jesus and Jesus says to “Come out of this man, you evil spirit.”  But then the spirit talks back to Jesus and Jesus has a conversation with this evil spirit and then casts the demons out into pigs.
  • A woman touches Jesus’ garments and is immediately healed.
  • Jarius comes to Jesus to heal his daughter, but on the way there the daughter dies, yet Jesus keeps going and raises her up from the dead.
  • A Syrophoenician woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter of an evil spirit.  He seems to ignore and push her away, but as she persists, He praises her faith and heals her daughter without even being near the little girl.
  • A deaf and mute man is brought to Jesus and Jesus puts his fingers into the man’s ears, spits and touches the man’s tongue, looks up to heaven and with a deep sign said to him, “Be opened!” The man is healed.
  • Blind Bartimaeus refuses to be silenced and calls out continuously for Jesus.  When Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus says, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  “Go,” Jesus says, “your faith has healed you.”  And immediately Bartimaeus can see.

 

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What is it about Jesus or the people that makes each miracle so different?

And what makes some miracles immediate and others have a process, a pleading, a waiting, a disappointment…before the miracle.

I’ve been praying for a miracle for our daughter to come home to us soon.  I still pray that daily.  And I wonder, if like Jarius, Jesus is coming with a miracle unlike I ever imagined, even though it seems like hope is gone.

I wonder if like the deaf and mute man Jesus is piecing the miracle together, and as I wait expectantly He smiles at the joy about to be seen and heard.

I wonder if like the Syrophoenician woman Jesus is testing my faith and persistence and is waiting just a little longer before announcing with joy, “You have great faith!”

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I don’t know what the miracle of our daughter will look like.  I don’t know what amazing story God is writing and about the reveal.  But I do know that like Jarius I won’t stop traveling with Jesus.

Like Bartimeaus I won’t stop calling out to Jesus to hear my case.

Like the man with leprosy I will ask for what seems like an impossible request.

Like the woman bleeding for twelve years I won’t stop trying to reach out and touch Jesus.

Like the paralytic I will have friends carry me to Jesus when I cannot do it on my own.

And like the Syrophoenician woman, I will not stop seeking God for my daughter.

What miracle are you praying for?  Search the scriptures and discover that miracles come in many different ways.  Some are immediate, some are delayed.  But all are for God’s glory and our joy.

I wait expectantly in faith for God’s glory to be revealed in the adoption of our daughter.