Archive for Encouragement
Remember that exciting ministry announcement I told you I was going to share this week?! A few technical difficulties came up, so I’m going to have to delay the announcement for just another week or two. (Not being able to tell you yet is killllling me!) Just know that you and I are going to get to be a part of something awesome together, many will be blessed, everyone in your family can be involved with this ministry, and, and…that’s all I can say. I suppose you can go ahead and start praying about it though. God knows what it is. :)
In the meantime, I have felt it on my heart to share my thoughts about serving with your family when the very idea of reaching out sounds overwhelming and exhausting. Maybe you have little bitty children, making it difficult to get enough sleep, find even one clean towel, and run a brush through your hair each day. You may be thinking, “Serving? With my family? How and when should I do that?”
Maybe you have a sick friend or family member. Or you just buried a loved one. Perhaps you just moved and have more boxes in your house than furniture. It could be that you or your spouse is out of work, and you don’t know where the next dollar is coming from. Maybe you are struggling to hold your marriage together. Or your children are making choices that are tearing your family apart.
I am here to tell you that there is a time to serve, and a time to be served. There is a time to reach out, and a time to let others reach out and hold you. There is a time to give, and a time to receive gifts. There is a time to go, and a time to stop. There is a time to work, and a time to rest.
If it is your time to be served, be held, receive gifts, stop, and rest - with no fear, regret, or hesitation, give yourself permission to be generously loved on.
When my mom died eight and a half years ago, there were many days I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I was pregnant with Malachi, and our other boys were ages 7, 4, and 2. I was exhausted. I was devastated. I was broken.
It was my time to be served. People came and vacuumed my house for me. They cleaned my toilets. Meals appeared in my freezer. Friends came and whisked my kids off so that they could have some fun and so that I could grieve and rest. Oh how much love I felt from so many people who care about me.
During much of that time, I couldn’t even think about doing something for someone outside of my immediate family. And that was okay. It was hard enough to get out a box of cereal and put it on the table for breakfast.
But then there were days when I simply needed to serve. I find it a bit hard to explain, but sometimes, I actually needed to look beyond myself and think about anything at all (anything!) besides being sad. I couldn’t do anything big (if in fact we can put a “big” and “small” value on acts of service). But the little boys and I could pack up for an hour or two to go visit a widow lady who needed comfort as much as I did. We could get out the art supplies and make cards for people. We could pray together.
If I didn’t feel like being with people (because often, I just didn’t have it in me), we could make cookies and have Matt drop them off in our church fellowship hall for the upcoming bake sale. Or we could gather up some clothes we no longer needed and let a friend deliver them to an excited recipient.
I am amazed that even at one of my lowest points, God still provided ways for me to serve. At the same time, I continued to let others in to serve me too. I do believe this should always be the case. Sometimes we are more able to serve, sometimes we have very little to give. Let God lead you on this. He knows just what you need.
Please share your thoughts and experiences on this subject. I’d love to hear ways people have blessed you in your time of need. Have you found ways to serve others during difficult seasons in life?
In a world that tells our kids that they only need to think about themselves – we long to teach our children what it means to give, what it means to be servant-hearted, and what it means to be selfless.
I believe these are lessons we are all, as adults, still striving to learn ourselves. In fact, you should be delighted to know that just the other day, I was as selfless and servant-hearted as can be. I then proceeded to throw a tantrum because no one recognized how kind and wonderful I had been. How dare my children not pat me on the back or give me a loving round of applause for my constant selfless acts of bending-over-backwards kindness toward them?!
Selfless? Sounds more like I was being self-absorbed, self-motivated, and self…self…selfish! I obviously still have so much to learn.
So how do we teach our kids to be humble and servant-hearted? And how do we (the wise and wonderful grown-ups) learn to die to ourselves?
I believe we do this by looking outward. By looking to the needs of others. By stopping the focus on ourselves and instead, focusing on truly loving those around us.
(By the way, Jesus never threw a tantrum because he wasn’t being properly appreciated for his selfless acts. Not one time. I would do well to remember this.)
I find that each time I serve someone in my family or in my church or community out of true, selfless love, I am so enriched by the experience that I can’t help but be drawn closer to God. This is what I want my children to learn and understand: That service to others is a glory to God. That this world is not our home, and we are not called to be content and comfortable, but to selflessly love and to serve. That loving on others brings pure joy that can only be achieved when we follow Jesus’ servant-hearted footsteps.
I believe the best way we can learn to serve selflessly and teach our children to serve selflessly is to work at it side by side. How ridiculous is it for me to put my kids in front of a DVD so that I can have the time to work on a ministry I’m involved in? How silly is it that I would busy my kids in another room on an act of kind service while I head to the computer to get some writing done?
Admittedly, this has to happen sometimes. But what if, the majority of the time, we all work together on ministries as a family? What if we talk together, pray together, plan together, and execute together various ministries that God has given us? In doing so, we learn together, grow together, make beautiful memories together, and slowly but surely, become selfless servants…together.
I have more to share on this topic - and I have a very exciting ministry project announcement that I’ll be writing about next week! In the meantime, let’s reflect together on how we each serve within our families. This looks different for each family, depending on your season in life, how old your kids are, and the circumstances going on around you. But I believe each family can bless others in so many different ways! So share!! What do you and your family do to bless and love on others?
I know we focus on being thankful each Gratituesday around here. But hey, we can focus again on it later in the week, right?!
I am currently reading through Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. It’s an amazing (and challenging) read, and I highly encourage this book. I am realizing the need tonight to focus on the blessings and gifts of today. Will you join me?
Some of my gifts today…
~ We got to eat lots of veggies!! Always wonderful after traveling. ;)
~ I was blessed to have a most encouraging telephone conversation with my Aunt Millie this morning. Oh how I love, need, and am inspired by that woman. She is a beautiful woman of God. She begins chemo treatments tomorrow. And there she was encouraging me…
~ Prayer. What would we do without it?
~ It’s the first day of spring! It is still cold here, but today, the sunshine busted through the windows, giving us just a hint of what is to come.
~ I got to be sharpened in Ladies Bible Class tonight. I am surrounded there by godly women.
~ We have enough food in our fridge for leftovers at lunchtime tomorrow. Hooray for the thirteen peas!
~ I got to squeeze in a work-out today. It was just what I needed after sitting in the van (and eating cheesecake) yesterday.
~ Since I was able to keep up with laundry at our lodge in Branson, by tonight, I only have one load left to do from our trip.
~ There were casseroles in the freezer for us to warm up and eat today so that I didn’t have to stop working to cook.
~ You. I am blessed by each of you who choose to read my thoughts and ideas here on this blog. I appreciate you.
~ Made-up songs. My boys come up with them daily. Today was no exception. Sometimes they even rhyme. And they are always ridiculously funny.
~ Crashing in my own bed. That ranks right up there with eating veggies after returning home from vacation. :)
What about you? Share the gifts of today. What comes to mind? In what ways are you blessed?
Really? Does a fresh, clean tablecloth really make everything better?
It doesn’t heal you when you’re sick. It doesn’t take away life’s frustrations and grief. It doesn’t make the “to-do” list go away or suddenly give you an empty laundry hamper. It certainly won’t make sure your bills are paid.
But every single time I get our table cleaned off, our kitchen counters wiped down, the leftovers put away, the dishwasher humming - and I lay down a clean, fresh tablecloth – I suddenly feel as though I can breathe again. I find it extremely refreshing.
It probably sounds silly, simplistic, and maybe even a tiny bit ridiculous to those who could really care less about a tablecloth. But I find that a clean tablecloth gives me a fresh start – even if it’s just a fresh start to the morning or the afternoon. The next time I walk into the kitchen to serve my family, I can look at the table and say, “Aaaaahhhhhhhh”, instead of looking at it with discouragement because it is covered with school books, crumbs, maple syrup drippings, dirty dishes, and a variety of Lego people or paper airplanes. I’m all about letting our house have a “lived in” look, because indeed, we do very much live here. But it is no fun to cook a meal around a huge mess.
When I begin with a less cluttered kitchen, I can then cheerfully make a new mess of the kitchen, cook up a storm, dirty up pots and pans, serve a meal, watch the kids dribble gravy or ketchup or cheesy pasta off of their plates and onto the table.
And it’s all okay. Because a fresh tablecloth will make everything better. :)
Are you a tablecloth user? Do you find that you can breathe easier when your table is all cleaned off?
When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait to grow up and be a wife and mommy. And I also wanted to be a teacher. And a hairdresser. And a baker. And a writer.
I had visions of what this dream life would be like, even though I wasn’t sure how I could really “have it all”. After all, I always really, really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But I also wanted to be a teacher or maybe I would do hair or have a bakery. Writing? Well, I just really enjoyed it. Maybe, I thought, I would write a children’s book someday.
I certainly never considered the hard work it would take to achieve each dream. As I dreamed of what my life would be like when I grew up, I always pictured the end result. The handsome, hard working daddy. The adorable, clean, well fed children. The spotless, organized home (surrounded by a picket fence and pretty flowers). The beautiful cakes and cookies seen from my bakery window. My perfectly managed classroom full of happy, smart students. Finished manuscripts sitting neatly in a stack beside my typewriter (yes, I’m old). And me. I would be the smiling, rested, relaxed grown up lady.
Fastforward to 2013.
I am 39 years old with a handsome, hard working husband.
I am a mom. I’ve got four amazing kids. All boys. Who knew?!
I am a teacher. My classroom is our kitchen table or our sofa.
I am a baker. My oven is often filled with breads, muffins, casseroles, cookies, and much more – all of which are scarfed up before anyone has much chance or desire to admire them.
I am a hairdresser. About once a month, we cycle through everyone from Dad to teenager to ten year old, then sweep up all the blond hairs that have fallen in the process.
How could I have ever imagined that living my dreams as a wife, a mom, a teacher, a baker, and a writer could be so amazing, fulfilling, rewarding, and enjoyable? I couldn’t know – until I began living the dream. I’m so thankful and joyful! Recognizing this is what makes me the smiling, rested, relaxed grown up lady.
But often, I am the tired, worn out, overwhelmed lady – trying to get a meal on the table, the writing deadline met, and the kids to stop arguing.
Dreaming big? We need to do it. God has given us all gifts – we need to dream and plan for how we can use them for His purposes!
As a child, I simply had…dreams. I now realize that living my dream means that I must be a very hard worker. I must be wise with my time, careful with my choices, and intentional about my relationships.
Clean houses, happy children, pretty baked goods, writing projects, healthy relationships – they don’t just happen. We can’t just dream them into reality. We can’t just desire something into existence.
We have to work hard. We have to persevere. We have to take leaps of faith. We have to make sacrifices. And we have to trust the Creator.
Will all of our dreams then come true? Likely not all of them. I’ve endured shattered dreams. It’s devastating. We have to trust the Creator on this one too.
Here’s what I’ve realized: God’s reality is much better than any of my dreams – even the dreams that have “come true”. He can use us to fulfill His purposes, to glorify Him, and to minister to others in ways we never could ever think or dream, or in ways that we can think or dream. And He always gives us everything we need to make it happen.
Now that’s a reality I’d like to hold onto.
Please share in the comments: Do you feel like you’re living many of your dreams? (Does it take a little more work than you initially figured it might?!) Have you been frustrated to see some of your dreams unfulfilled? How have you seen God work through those times?
We had been traveling for two weeks. We drove from Nebraska to California and back again. We saw friends and loved ones along the way. We waited in traffic, slowed down while car accidents were cleared away, crawled along to be careful of icy roads, and took detours. Our body clocks got messed up because of the time changes. Our digestive systems got messed up because of the fast food.
We got behind on our work. We came home to deadlines, expectations, loads and loads of laundry, and a Christmas tree that needed to be taken down and put away.
After spending an enjoyable holiday with family – I found myself being so tired upon arriving home that all I could think of was how miserable I was. I had so much catching up to do, I didn’t know where to start. I just wanted to sleep. But no matter how much I slept, I somehow couldn’t get caught up on rest. My body was exhausted. And ultimately, I didn’t have time for extra sleep. There was too much to do!
The point of this post is not to invite you to my pity party. I’ve prayed through it. I’ve caught up on sleep. I’m over it. :)
But we all have times like this don’t we? Times when we are so overwhelmed and exhausted we can hardly see straight? It’s not fun.
While I was in the “thick of the sludge” last week, at one point I groaned and wearily told Matt, “You know what I really want to do? I really just want to skip all the rest of the work I need to do and go into the kitchen and cook all day!”
Matt told me to go for it. But I whined that I “didn’t have time to take a break like that.”
Finally, once I realized that I wasn’t able to be productive anymore at the computer, I threw my hands in the air and went into the kitchen to start grinding flour. :) I then proceeded to spend the entire afternoon baking, cooking, and baking some more.
By the time I was finished, my back was aching, my feet were tired, and my kitchen was a mess. But I felt completely refreshed, recharged, and ready to tackle my other projects once again.
It’s amazing really. Sometimes when we have too much to do, we need to just step back and do something else. By doing so, we will be refreshed and ready to tackle our to-do list again.
Cooking refreshes me. I love it. And then I end up with great food to feed my family too. It’s a win-win!
What recharges your batteries? What activity do you love to do when you need a breath of fresh air? Making crafts, cleaning, cooking, something else? I can’t wait to hear!
My husband babied our potted pepper plant. He carried it outside on “sunny” days - which are few and far between in Nebraska this time of the year. He brought it back in at night so that it wouldn’t freeze.
And then, in December, we enjoyed the one last sweet pepper that we had grown. Yum!
May your Christmas be filled with joy and praise to our Father. And may you have unexpected blessings in your life – such as a fresh, homegrown sweet pepper in December. :)
Please welcome Jeanette, one of our site sponsors who blogs at A Moment With Mom. She wrote a beautiful post that I wanted to share with you. I know for me, as a mom who has a brain that is often three tasks ahead, I often struggle to be “all there” in the moment. I hope you are also blessed by what Jeanette has to share:
What is your favorite Christmas memory?
I would venture to bet it has very little to do with “things” and more to do with relationships. As a mother of 11, it has been important to me to cultivate memories for my family that were of substance. While a child may jump up and down with glee for that new toy they’ve had on their list, it’s only a few months before the newness is worn off and the excitment is gone. However, when I put my attention on creating memorable moments, I hear the excitment and impact they had in my children’s lives for years to come.
There were many years of our marriage that we had very little. We have lived off the grid in a tent with five children at the time, while my husband built our cabin. We have washed clothes in the creek, used a wood cookstove to cook a pot of my home made potporri, and I harvested our food from wild plants. I know how to live with a little.
In that season of life I was always trying to create an environment that welcomed the beauty that was all around us. I would go out and cut cedar branches with the children and then sit and work with them on making our own wreath for the front door. These were some precious moments together as a family. We would sit and string cranberries and popcorn while talking about special family memories. Taking a drive to see the lights has always been a fun treat, especially with a cup of home made hot cocoa.
We’ve always had the family tradition of creating a gingerbread house, even though we’re terrible at it. It’s not about how the gingerbread house turned out, it’s about the laughter and working together that makes it a memory worth repeating each year.
How can you cultivate a favorite Christmas memory for your family? Singing Christmas songs while baking cookies? Taking a ride to see the lights and drinking hot cocoa along the way? Eating candy canes together as a family while reading a favorite story? There are so many simple things we can do with our family to cultivate environments for that special moment, but we have to be all there!
Jim Elliot once said, “Where ever you are be all there.” I believe we as wives and mothers we can apply that concept to our homes. We have so many distractions around us and it’s taking a toll in our home making. In order for us to purposefully create memories we can’t be distracted with texts, phone calls, Facebook, or other social outlets. We each need to take the time to be “all there” for our family!
These days will go by fast and before too long we’ll see that all we have are memories. Let’s make them meaningful memories!
I encourage you to read more of what Jeanette has to share on her blog A Moment with M.O.M.
We had finally reached the end of what is typically one of the busiest weeks of the year.
It was now finally Saturday, and we had been gone all day long at one of our son’s soccer games out of town. The kitchen was a picture of chaos, with coolers and leftovers from our packed lunch sitting in the perfect place for me to trip over while I tried to throw together a late dinner. The crusty dishes from breakfast were still piled high in the sink. Fruit gnats had found our compost bucket, which, I might add, was beginning to smell nasty and fermented. The tomato sauce splattered all over the stove when I poured it into the pot to make spaghetti.
In the meantime, I was moving super slowly. I felt very, very tired. Plus, for some unknown reason, my left knee – the knee I’ve had trouble with off and on for 22 years since I injured it in high school – was causing me a lot of pain. I wrapped ice around it while I cut up veggies for dinner and just kept moving. Slowly I focused on finishing dinner, getting everyone fed, and getting the kitchen in decent shape so that I could just go to bed.
Oh yes, and I also concentrated very hard on feeling sorry for myself. All I could think of was, “I’m sooo tired. My knee hurts. I just want to go to bed.” I couldn’t have smiled if you would have paid me, and I really didn’t feel like answering questions or talking to my family.
And then, someone showed up at our door.
Oh yeah. I had forgotten that we had told a young friend of ours he could spend the night with us. But there he was, and what could I do but find some sort of pleasant look to greet him with? I pulled a lopsided smile out from way down deep inside my toes, and welcomed him in.
This friend of ours has some disabilities and special needs, which meant that heading to bed any time soon just wasn’t going to happen. But he is incredibly delightful to have around, and he needed to be served.
I invited him into the kitchen with me (scooting the coolers out of the way as best I could) and began to serve him dinner and visit with him. He shared a fun story about something that had happened earlier in the day, which made me laugh in spite of myself.
Several minutes later, as I fed him and helped him with various needs, it occurred to me that I wasn’t quite as tired as I had been. I had forgotten all about my aching knee. The mess in the kitchen didn’t look so terrible. And in fact, I was feeling quite joyful and energetic.
This young man has taught me many life lessons, and this time was no exception: If you’re down, feeling sorry for yourself, and otherwise choosing to throw yourself a pity party…consider who you might serve. Looking outward toward meeting the needs of others will take the focus off of “self” every time.
Disclaimer: Obviously, we all need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves before we serve others, otherwise we have nothing left to give. The point of this post isn’t suggesting that you give of yourself until you pass out. The point is to stop feeling sorry for yourself. And if you’re having a hard time doing that, find someone to serve. It works every time.
I am very honored to welcome this guest post by Lysa Terkeurst from Proverbs 31 Ministries…
“Mom, I didn’t make it. Please pray for me. I just feel confused about God.”
I felt my daughter’s deep hurt as clearly as if it were my own. I know what it feels like to want something so badly and have that dream shut down. That door closed. That opportunity slipped away.
She had been talking about trying for this special achievement at summer camp for 3 years. But she wasn’t old enough to try until this year, her 4th year at camp.
She met every challenge and could see the goal in sight … until it was time for her to light a large campfire with only three matches, one small square of newspaper, and a few sticks of wood.
She struck the first match and held it to the newspaper but it didn’t ignite. She struck the second match and held it to the newspaper. It still didn’t ignite.
She stared at the third and final match. Knowing a big part of the challenge was teaching the kids how to communicate with God and fully rely on Him, she’d been praying through every stage. But now, she didn’t just pray—she cried out to God.
“Please help me, God. Please,” she mouthed as she struck the third match. She held the flame to the paper and watched in complete disbelief. The matchstick burned but the paper did not.
As the final match burned out, she lowered her head in defeat.
Nine girls tried for this highest honor of finishing the challenge. Three girls didn’t make it, including my daughter.
When I picked her up a week later, she asked if we could process this situation. What bothered her most wasn’t not getting the camp honor. What bothered her most was not experiencing God’s power like the other girls.
They all had stories of God answering their cries for help in amazing ways through the challenge.
“Mom, I didn’t get that with God. Why?”
It was one of those questions you don’t want to mess up in answering.
I asked her to recall every step of her challenge so we could intentionally look for God’s hand. I listened intently for anything unusual and unexplainable.
When she got to the fire, I found it. There was no reason her newspaper shouldn’t light. None at all. Everyone else’s paper lit.
“Honey, that can only be explained by God intervening. He was there. He was listening. And we just have to trust there was some reason you shouldn’t have continued that challenge. We may not know that reason, but we can certainly trust God was protecting you … loving you … revealing His power to you.”
She put her head on my shoulder, “You really think so Mom?”
I whispered, “I know so.”
I know so because I trust the truth God has given me. Truths like these are anchors that hold me to the reality of who God is.
He is the One in whom I find comfort and reassurance: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
He is right here with me in the midst of my trouble, I am not alone: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
He is the One who can use my tears to water the soil of my heart so that it can one day be a harvest of joy: “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5 (NIV)
Yes, I know deep hurt. But I also know deep hope. So, I whispered it again, “Yes, sweetheart, I know so.”
Sometimes God’s power is shown as much in preventing things as it is in making them happen. We may never know the why. But we can always know and trust the Who.
Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author, National Speaker, and President of Proverbs 31 Ministries. You can read her daily blog at www.LysaTerKeurst.com or hear her encouragement through the Proverbs 31 Ministries’ radio program played on over 1200 outlets. She loves that the first four letters of Messiah spell a “mess.” All of the messages Lysa speaks and writes about come from her awareness of what a mess she can be. Most days you can find her writing from her sticky farm table in North Carolina where she lives with her husband Art, her five priority blessings named Jackson, Mark, Hope, Ashley, and Brooke, 3 dogs and a mouse that refuses to leave her kitchen.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand why God prevents something when we want Him to provide it. If you’re looking for a friend to help you process your emotions in the hard times, Lysa does this in her gut-honest new book, Unglued. Click here to get your copy today. Or, leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a free copy of the book! I’ll draw two random winners on Friday, August 24. Please watch here for a post stating the winners as you will be responsible for contacting me if your name is chosen!