When you think nothing really good comes from Winter……..

On this cold, snowy day, I am reminded of this description of Winter by Alicia Britt Chole in her book, Anonymous:

In winter, are the trees bare? yes.

In winter, are the barren? No.

Life still is.

Life does not sleep- though in winter she retracts all advertisement. And when she does so, she is conserving and preparing for the future.

And so it is with us. Seasonally, we too are stripped of visible fruit. Our giftings are hidden; our abilities are underestimated. When previous successes fade and current efforts falter, we can easily mistake our fruitlessness for failure.

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Photo credit by Nancy Rutledge

But such is the rhythm of spiritual life: new growth, fruitfulness, transition, rest…..new growth fruitfulness, transition, rest. Abundance may make us feel more productive, but perhaps emptiness has greater power to strengthen our souls.

In spiritual winters, our fullness is thinned so that, undistracted by our giftings, we can focus upon our character. In the absence of anything to measure, we are left with nothing to state at except for our foundation.

Risking inspection, we begin to examine the motivations that support our deeds, the attitudes that influence our words, the dead wood otherwise hidden beneath our busyness. Then a life-changing transition occurs as we move from resistance through repentance to the place of rest. With gratitude, we simply abide. Like a tree planted by living water, we focus upon our primary responsibility: remaining in him.

In winter, are we bare? Yes.

In winter, are we barren? No.

True life still is.

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photo credit by Nancy Rutledge

The Father’s work in us does not sleep- though in spiritual winters he retracts all advertisements. And when he does so, he is purifying our faith, strengthening our character, conserving our energy, and preparing us for the future.

The sleepy days of winter hide us so that seductive days of summer will not ruin us. Alicia Britt Chole

Father,  just as the earth finds restoration and rest in the quiet, solitude of winter, allow this spiritual season to purify my faith so that I might abide only in You. Amen.

~Amy

 

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Advent: Love’s Greatest Story

Romantic movies try to create it. Love songs try to sing about it. Fairy tales try to capture it.

A longing lies in each of us for a Great Love Story.

We are drawn to such art, media, and entertainment because they touch in us this deep desire for love. Our hearts, and yes even our spirits, long for romance, adventure, and passion. We experience these thin attempts at love and long for more because they are only a shadow of a deeper desire.

Before time began, God wrote the story we crave. God set forth the plan to pursue and redeem us for Himself. He wrote the story of Jesus Christ as the Savior for us all.

AdventLove

In this great romance, He didn’t send Jesus to get us cleaned up good enough so he could finally show His love to us. No, this isn’t your familiar love story where the perfect looking hero and heroine meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after.

Instead, while we were yet sinners, broken, ugly, and undeserving of His attention,   He sent Jesus as the Word made flesh because He already loved us. His motivation to send His Son as Savior of the World was because of His passionate love for us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have Everlasting Life. John 3:16

Read it again for the first time.

It doesn’t say that He sent His Son to make the people lovable and then pursue us the object of His Desire. Rather, He loved us first and then set in motion the plot of the Great Love Story. The Hero seeks out the heroine even before she knows He is searching for her!

The fourth week of Advent reminds us of this great love God has for each of us and to be reminded that God’s pure, passionate love was why He sent us a Savior.Adventjoy

It makes perfect sense, then, the weeks of Advent are all part of the Great Love Story- Thanksgiving giving way to Hope, Hope making room for Peace, Peace leading us to Joy, and Joy opening our hearts for Love. In a dramatic, breath-taking conclusion, Christ bursts onto the scene as a baby, Emmanuel- God with us, and Love’s Greatest Story is birthed in our hearts!

 

As we light the 4th candle of Advent, I pray this love story is written on your heart in such a way the celebration of Jesus’ birth floods you with Hope, Peace, Joy and most of all, Love!

~Amy

Advent: Unexpected Joy

During this penitential season of Advent, we look inward and examine ourselves to prepare for the coming of Christ. In clearing away the inward clutter, we focus on the essentials of faith…..hope….peace….and so on.

By stripping away the excess, the busyness, and the noise of the season, we might be tempted to think we are missing out on all the excitement. However, when we stop and take time to quiet ourselves, we find something much greater…unexpected joy.

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Watching leaves fall in the woods, delighting in giggly girls upstairs, enjoying the soft glow of lights after everyone’s gone to bed, gazing on the galaxy of stars on a crisp night, feeling the laughter of community in the church play, and dipping treats in chocolate with friends….these have been my joy this season in the midst paperwork, fevers, shopping, and rehearsals.

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As we light the fourth pink candle of Advent, may we quiet ourselves in prayer, meditation, and solitude turning our hearts to Christ. And, in the midst of the season, we will find Joy because our hearts in tune with His.

What unexpected joy have you found this season?

~Amy

Advent: His Presence leads to Peace

It never fails. I can count on it every time.

When I enter His Presence, His peace enters me.

Every. Single. Time.

So no matter how tired or weary I am; no matter how much my flesh cries screams out to stay on the couch, when I pray and worship, when I choose to enter His Presence, I am always surrounded by His Presence. I lay down my worries, concerns, and fears. I take my mind off myself, and I think about Him.

What do I get in return? Peace 

He gives me peace. In exchange for my feeble and limited worship He gives me His Peace.

PresencePeace

My circumstances don’t neccessarily change, but because he gives me His Peace, my spirit is put at rest, my mind doesn’t worry (as much), and I and strengthened to keep going. I can trust that He has all things in His Hands.

As we light the second candle of Advent for Peace, may we be so saturated by His Presence that we walk through this season of hectic celebration with a peace that passes all understanding. And, in so doing, may we be instruments of peace to others. Instead of looking for others to bring us joy and love and comfort, may we radiate His Peace to family, friends and neighbors all around us!

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~Amy

Advent: Love’s Greatest Story

Romantic movies try to create it. Love songs try to sing about it. Fairy tales try to capture it.

A longing lies in each of us for a Great Love Story.

We are drawn to such art, media, and entertainment because they touch in us this deep desire for love. Our hearts, and yes even our spirits, long for romance, adventure, and passion. We experience these thin attempts at love and long for more because they are only a shadow of a deeper desire.

Before time began, God wrote the story we crave. God set forth the plan to pursue and redeem us for Himself. He wrote the story of Jesus Christ as the Savior for us all.

AdventLove

In this great romance, He didn’t send Jesus to get us cleaned up good enough so he could finally show His love to us. No, this isn’t your familiar love story where the perfect looking hero and heroine meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after.

Instead, while we were yet sinners, broken, ugly, and undeserving of His attention,   He sent Jesus as the Word made flesh because He already loved us. His motivation to send His Son as Savior of the World was because of His passionate love for us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have Everlasting Life. John 3:16

Read it again for the first time.

It doesn’t say that He sent His Son to make the people lovable and then pursue us the object of His Desire. Rather, He loved us first and then set in motion the plot of the Great Love Story. The Hero seeks out the heroine even before she knows He is searching for her!

The fourth week of Advent reminds us of this great love God has for each of us and to be reminded that God’s pure, passionate love was why He sent us a Savior.Adventjoy

It makes perfect sense, then, the weeks of Advent are all part of the Great Love Story- Thanksgiving giving way to Hope, Hope making room for Peace, Peace leading us to Joy, and Joy opening our hearts for Love. In a dramatic, breath-taking conclusion, Christ bursts onto the scene as a baby, Emmanuel- God with us, and Love’s Greatest Story is birthed in our hearts!

 

As we light the 4th candle of Advent, I pray this love story is written on your heart in such a way the celebration of Jesus’ birth floods you with Hope, Peace, Joy and most of all, Love!

~Amy

How Football can teach you about Ministry

Show of hands…….Who else loves football season??

I’m not a huge sports fan, but I do love football.  The excitement, the intensity,the cool weather, the band….the win!!! I love it!

I grew up with a dad who particularly loved (and still does) a certain Crimson team with a rich history of tradition and winning. I remember waiting in the kitchen with my pom poms, and when there was a touchdown, I would run into the den to cheer!

I married a man who is equally passionate about our beloved team as my daddy. I always said the only thing my daddy and my husband had in common were football and me:) So,we pretty much plan our Saturdays around game time. Even though I prefer college football over professional, I still like the background noise of the game on Sunday afternoons…or anytime.

Here lately, I’ve been thinking about the training football players receive and what it takes to make successful teams and win games. I believe the same ideas could help us in life and in our ministries……

  1. Play a full 60 minutes: Football players are taught to give 100% for the FULL 60 minutes of the game.They don’t give up when there’s still another quarter left or even just a couple of minutes.  I can start to coast after lunch, or on Thursday afternoons, be tempted to call it a week. However, I know that’s not my best. I should give my best for the full day or week or task until it is complete….despite the outcome!
  2. Prepare: Football teams don’t start preparing for the game on the day of the game. They start way back in the spring exercising and strength conditioning. Likewise, if we are serving, giving, teaching, singing, preaching..anything, don’t wait to the last minute to prepare. There have been so many times I waited til the last minute to get ready. Even though things may have gone ok, I knew in my heart it could have been better if I had prepared more. Even if it’s just praying and getting my heart focused, any preparation for ministry makes the outcome more effective.
  3. Play your position: The quarterback can’t pass the ball and catch the ball and block the other players. He can only play his position. If he tries to play all the positions, he won’t be able to properly play any of them. Also, if he’s too busy watching or comparing what his other teammates are doing, he’s not going to play at his best. Same with us. If I’m comparing my ministry to someone else’s or jealous of someone else’s success, it takes me away from playing effectively in my part of the game.
  4. Stay focused on the goal: Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on why we are doing what we do. We get tired and pour ourselves out until we are empty. If we aren’t seeing a lot of results, we can get wore down and wonder if we’re gaining any ground or earning any points. Sometimes, making it to the final score seems too far away, so we keep our eyes on just making it to the next 10 yards to get the 1st down. Don’t ever forget….we aren’t playing for just a national championship (although that is very nice), we are playing for the eternal prize, the Kingdom Championship…..where every tear will be wiped away and we’ll be face to face with Him!
  5. There’s no “I ” in Team: Everybody loves a football player who humbly acknowledges the team  won the game together, not a single showboat hogging the lime-light. Same with us. Whether it’s your team of volunteers or music team at your local church or its the Body of Christ, the Church universal, we are ALL on the same team and should have the same goal in mind. We support and encourage each other. We set each other up for success.

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As I’ve thought about how to act more like a winning team, I also think about where I’m playing my game. I don’t just need to do my best in church ministry or when people are looking. My best game needs to be in all areas of my life….work….home….grocery shopping……with activities I enjoy but even more so with activities that I don’t enjoy. I need to bring my A game during sacred ministry (singing, teaching) as well as ordinary ministry (laundry, dishes). It’s easy to feel like winning when I’m doing stuff I love. Where I really need to crack down and play for 60, prepare, stay focused on the goal, play my position, and stay with the team is when I’m doing the stuff I don’t really like so much. That’s where God gets the most honor and where my acts of service and worship are more authentic and real.

Everybody loves to cheer for a winning team. Your team may or may not make it to a championship game. But, if we claim Jesus as our Head Coach, then we are on the Kingdom Team!!! No matter what position, no matter what mission is your playing field, play like a Champion Christian!!

Roll Tide!!!

~Amy

 

Advent: Repentance leads to Hope

Thanksgiving and gratitude give way to Advent, a time to reflect on the first coming of Christ and to prepare for the second coming of Christ. Since this purple, penitential season is a time to examine one’s self, repentance is the place to start.

I sometimes get caught up in what I need, what I don’t have, or what I want. Being thankful helps me to remember how blessed I am. It refocuses my attention on all that I do have and how I lack for nothing. When I think about all the overwhelming blessings in my life, it puts my sins in their right perspective, and I am convicted of the need for repentance. Before I can prepare my heart for the joys of Christmas celebrations, examining my attitudes, thoughts and actions helps to prepare the way for His Coming into my life.

Adventjoy

What do I find when I examine myself? I haven’t stolen anything lately that I can think of. I haven’t coveted my neighbors goat or broken any of the ‘big ones’. But this examination brings to light attitudes, negatives thoughts, selfishness, an ego always yearning for the spotlight, and pride. These seemingly subtle sins (but actually are the real sins) affect how I treat others and how I think others need to treat me. They blind me to seeing Christ in others, and deafen me to hearing His Voice.

Today, though, we light the first candle and read the Scriptures. We take in the verses of His Glory on our faces….preparing for His Coming….and being given every spiritual blessing until His return…and we say the words of the first week of Advent.

In my examining, I pray “Lord, Will I ever get it right?”

The answer is burning brightly before me……Jesus is Hope.Jesus is Hope

The questions I ask in my repentance are always answered in Hope.

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How does repentance bring you to Hope….the first week of Advent?

~Amy

How Football can teach you about Ministry

Show of hands…….Who else loves football season??

I’m not a huge sports fan, but I do love football.  The excitement, the intensity,the cool weather, the band….the win!!! I love it!

I grew up with a dad who particularly loved (and still does) a certain Crimson team with a rich history of tradition and winning. I remember waiting in the kitchen with my pom poms, and when there was a touchdown, I would run into the den to cheer!

I married a man who is equally passionate about our beloved team as my daddy. I always said the only thing my daddy and my husband had in common were football and me:) So,we pretty much plan our Saturdays around game time. Even though I prefer college football over professional, I still like the background noise of the game on Sunday afternoons…or anytime.

Here lately, I’ve been thinking about the training football players receive and what it takes to make successful teams and win games. I believe the same ideas could help us in life and in our ministries……

  1. Play a full 60 minutes: Football players are taught to give 100% for the FULL 60 minutes of the game.They don’t give up when there’s still another quarter left or even just a couple of minutes.  I can start to coast after lunch, or on Thursday afternoons, be tempted to call it a week. However, I know that’s not my best. I should give my best for the full day or week or task until it is complete….despite the outcome!
  2. Prepare: Football teams don’t start preparing for the game on the day of the game. They start way back in the spring exercising and strength conditioning. Likewise, if we are serving, giving, teaching, singing, preaching..anything, don’t wait to the last minute to prepare. There have been so many times I waited til the last minute to get ready. Even though things may have gone ok, I knew in my heart it could have been better if I had prepared more. Even if it’s just praying and getting my heart focused, any preparation for ministry makes the outcome more effective.
  3. Play your position: The quarterback can’t pass the ball and catch the ball and block the other players. He can only play his position. If he tries to play all the positions, he won’t be able to properly play any of them. Also, if he’s too busy watching or comparing what his other teammates are doing, he’s not going to play at his best. Same with us. If I’m comparing my ministry to someone else’s or jealous of someone else’s success, it takes me away from playing effectively in my part of the game.
  4. Stay focused on the goal: Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on why we are doing what we do. We get tired and pour ourselves out until we are empty. If we aren’t seeing a lot of results, we can get wore down and wonder if we’re gaining any ground or earning any points. Sometimes, making it to the final score seems too far away, so we keep our eyes on just making it to the next 10 yards to get the 1st down. Don’t ever forget….we aren’t playing for just a national championship (although that is very nice), we are playing for the eternal prize, the Kingdom Championship…..where every tear will be wiped away and we’ll be face to face with Him!
  5. There’s no “I ” in Team: Everybody loves a football player who humbly acknowledges the team  won the game together, not a single showboat hogging the lime-light. Same with us. Whether it’s your team of volunteers or music team at your local church or its the Body of Christ, the Church universal, we are ALL on the same team and should have the same goal in mind. We support and encourage each other. We set each other up for success.

football.ministry

As I’ve thought about how to act more like a winning team, I also think about where I’m playing my game. I don’t just need to do my best in church ministry or when people are looking. My best game needs to be in all areas of my life….work….home….grocery shopping……with activities I enjoy but even more so with activities that I don’t enjoy. I need to bring my A game during sacred ministry (singing, teaching) as well as ordinary ministry (laundry, dishes). It’s easy to feel like winning when I’m doing stuff I love. Where I really need to crack down and play for 60, prepare, stay focused on the goal, play my position, and stay with the team is when I’m doing the stuff I don’t really like so much. That’s where God gets the most honor and where my acts of service and worship are more authentic and real.

Everybody loves to cheer for a winning team. Your team may or may not make it to a championship game. But, if we claim Jesus as our Head Coach, then we are on the Kingdom Team!!! No matter what position, no matter what mission is your playing field, play like a Champion Christian!!

Roll Tide!!!

~Amy

 

I’m Longing for more than just Christmas……..

If I were to be honest, I’d have to say that it’s been an effort to get into the Christmas spirit this year. I feel like “we just did this”, and I haven’t been ready for the season to come around again.

Whether I’m ready or not, we’re right in the thick of things. Yes, I’m doing all the Christmas stuff…..decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping. I’m getting it all done, and it really hasn’t been a chore.

As the holiday music and yummy food and the wrapping paper sink into my soul, I am slowly getting there. But, can I tell you this? I’m really longing for more.

I’m longing for more than just a nostalgic feeling of Christmas traditions and the annual family dinners.

I’m longing for more than new stuff. Yes, I’m buying stuff. Some new pajamas and socks were seriously needed, and I do enjoy buying presents for the kids and family. However, shopping for stuff doesn’t create in me a closer connection to God.

As much as I love seeing the happiness and glee on my children’s faces, I’m longing for more than their delight.

I’m longing for more than just the same old Christmas routine.

As I’ve been reading in Luke 2, I’m studying 2 obscure characters who were also longing for more:

 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Luke 2:25-26

Simeon spent his life longing for the Messiah.

He was so dedicated and devout even the Holy Spirit was operating in his life in these pre-Pentecost days. His relationship with God was so righteous that God promised Simeon he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. For 400 years no word from God was formally spoken to the people of Israel. But, obviously, Simeon was hearing from God. He had to have been a serious student of the Scriptures and of prophecy. His deep love for God and his concern for Isreal kept him longing so much for their fulfillment until he could see the promise fulfilled!

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Can you imagine? What a promise! Communion with God on this scale was like Moses or David. Simeon was like Enoch walking with God or like Elisha seeing Elijah being taken to heaven.

Anna spent her life worshipping God.

Anna was a widow who spent her entire life worshipping at the Temple. After only 7 years of marriage, her husband died. She could have remarried and had children, but for whatever reason, that did not happen for her. She spent her days in prayer and fasting at the Temple. When she overheard Simeon’s exclamation about the baby Jesus, she couldn’t resist getting in on the praise! And, she told everybody about the child!

38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. Luke 2:38

Can you imagine the encouragement they were to Mary and Joseph? Even when you know you are smack in the middle of God’s will, but you’ve never done this before. You’re scared. Then, two elderly people recognize who your child is, and they are excited with you. They encourage you. They tell you it’s going to be ok. These two faithful, wise Jews provided even more confirmation that Mary and Joseph were right in the middle of where they were supposed to be.

Every year when I read the Nativity account, I am drawn to these two people more than any other. Their lifelong dedication to God inspire me. I want to walk so closely with God that the Holy Spirit leads me. I want to deeply understand the Scriptures and to recognize when prophecy is being fulfilled. I want to dedicate my life to worshipping God in spirit and in truth. And, I want to be excited about it enough to share this Good News with others.

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For Christmas, I’m longing for more than just superficial celebrations. I desire a deeper connection with God that keeps me hoping like Simeon and worshipping like Anna until I see the Messiah with my own eyes.

What are you longing for this Christmas?

~Amy

Are you using God instead of getting to know God?

Sometimes, I find it hard to read the Gospels. I grew up hearing and reading all the stories of Jesus. They feel so familiar. I scim over the passages because I’ve heard them over and over again. I don’t see anything new, so I keep going to something else.

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Photo credit Julie Anna Johnson, WoW2013

I find, in recent years, I lean towards reading other passages of Scripture like the letters, proverbs and psalms. I asked myself this question. “Why do I have such a hard time reading the Gospels?”Here’s what came back to me:

Often, I’m reading Scripture to see what I can get out of it for myself.

As a “good” Christian disciple, I study the Bible looking for what’s going to help me be more Christ-like.  What can I apply to my life? What’s going to make me feel joy and live in peace? That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? The Bible is our guide, our road map, our instruction manual. We are supposed to be learning, absorbing, digesting the Word of God and living it out! I do. I love it!

When it comes to the Gospels, however, the focus is solely on Jesus. Yes, so much truth and teaching can be harvested and gathered for me to apply to my life. I’m not diminishing that at all. They show us who Jesus is, how he lived, his example for us to follow.

But sometimes, I need to simply read the Bible just to get to know Jesus- that’s it!

So, that makes me ask another question, “In other areas of Christian life, how much of what we do is for God, or is it for us?”

Music…do you listen to that Christian music because it makes you feel good or is it bringing you into God’s presence?

Church….do you go to church to see what you can get out of it or what the service can do for you? Or, do you prepare yourself for what you can give at church?

Bible studies, volunteering, attending classes, events, communion…do you do all those activities because of what it can do for you or how it makes you feel?

In ministry, are you studying, praying, searching for only what you can use in your sermon or your class? Do you consume Christian material only so you can have something to output?

If we’re not careful, those of us who live in a Christianized culture can fall into the rut of doing these good and right activities because that’s what is expected of us as “good Christians”. We can do these things out of obligation or “that’s just what we do” mentality. We might even be selfishly thinking ‘What’s in it for me?’ We can get too focused on what we’re doing and forget about Who or Why we’re do it. Sounds a bit like the religious Pharisees, doesn’t it? ouch.

I’m guilty of this……I’ll read an article and reference it for a blog post. I’ll hear something on the radio and think ‘I’ll use that in my Wed class’. I’ll hear somebody say something and I’ll think ‘that will be good for the next worship service’.

Godsake

Of course, all these activities, disciplines, and pursuits are what we’re supposed to be doing. Of course, we need these disciplines to keep us going in the right direction. We’re always going to be human, and we need these tangibles to help us develop a relationship with God. I’m not suggesting we throw out our studies, music, or activities. No! We need to do these things….yes God grows us and develops us. And YES, we are supposed to seek Him for what to say and do in life and in ministry. He uses all of these practices to communicate in us and through us. But be careful not to fall into the rut of using these things solely for your benefit.

Here’s what I’m doing. I’ve started reading the Gospels again with Mark. I’m reading slowly, asking questions, and noticing details. What was Jesus feeling? How did he react?

So ask yourself: am I doing this to draw closer to God or to make me look or feel more “Christian”? Am I consuming this material only to have something to output to others? Am I spending time with God just for God’s sake?..Am I getting to know Jesus?…not what I can get out of Him but simply to know Him.

Here’s a study guide to help you ask questions as you read the Gospels with a fresh set of eyes. Click on this study guide:  Class notes

I’m looking forward to getting to know Jesus better. Hope you are too!

~Amy

Are you chasing rainbows?

Striving for success is like chasing a rainbow. The search is pretty with lots of colors and sparkle with the promise of that pot of gold at the end. Really, though, you never get to the end.

I’ve shared about how I’m learning to find value over success in the areas of ministry over at Facebook. Through this journey, developing a taste for value isn’t easy. We humans seek out applause, recognition and affirmation. Even if you don’t like being in front of crowds, you still want to be noticed for what you do behind the scenes.

If this desire is the motivating factor behind anything we do, it’s driving us for the wrong reason. Plus, it’s chasing that elusive rainbow where we’ll never reach the end to get that infamous pot of gold. Chasing success will never fully satisfy, therefore, it will never really end. If you are like me, my intentions to serve and minister were good. However, deep down under those good intentions, I still wanted to know if people noticed me. Their response was my measuring stick of whether I was good enough. I wanted to be successful because that must mean God’s stamp of approval was on me. Well, and…..that people liked ME!!

How do you know if you are chasing rainbows ?

First of all, I am learning my identity is in Christ alone. Once I learn my worth is in Christ and my relationship to Him is more important than what I do, then I can let go of needing what other people say or how they respond. My efforts at ministry are an overflow of loving God. This is an ongoing process. I’m never going to fully realize this as long as I’m on earth.

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Once I have my identity in the right place, I can distinguish the difference between success and value: Success feeds my ego and pride, and value encourages others, glorifies God, and makes me thankful.

Seeking success benefits me. It feeds my ego. To be successful, I’m focus on the number of likes I get on a post or the number of views on a Facebook video. In front of a crowd, I’m looking to see how many people show up or how much they applaud. I’m getting very transparent here…I”ll even wonder if this one thing will open up an opportunity for another thing. Success (for me), more often than not, is trying to look good for myself, to make sure people notice me, and see what’s in it for me. When I’m striving to be successful, it’s all about me.

Seeking value benefits the people around me. I’m not concerned with how I look but rather if people are encouraged, edified, and desire to draw closer to God. Do they hunger for a deeper relationship with God because of how I’m am reflecting Christ?

Another way I know I’m being of value is when a precious woman writes me a thank you note saying how much she got out of an event. Or, a dear friend tells me to keep going because my efforts are making a difference. Or, someone telling me what I said was exactly what they needed to hear. God uses these individual responses to encourage me that what I’m doing is of value to each of them.

notes of encouragement

My ultimate measure of whether I’m seeking success or value is my intention towards God’s glory. Am I wanting Him to get the credit or me? Am I worried about looking good or spiritual or ‘all-together’? Or, am I focused on God being the center of attention? Am I more concerned with placing my acts of service at His feet, as an offering to Him, and then leaving the results up to Him?

I’m working at it in practical ways…….

I am developing the practice of not looking at the results and likes on social media. I am developing a reliance on God’s love and presence and my identity in Him. I am working at performing a task and not expecting anyone to notice or get credit for it. I am growing in doing my best even when no one is looking. And then, when God does something really awesome, I fully celebrate and give Him the credit, “Look what God did!!”

Also, I treasure those notes and words of encouragement from precious souls. I really feel like God is hugging me and wrapping His arms around me saying, “Keep at it, Beloved!”

Finally, I’m learning that whatever applause, affection, or praise I do receive, I’m to offer it back up to God with thanksgiving.

Alicia Britt Chole, in her book 40 Days of Decrease, describes how she imagines all the praise and success she receives from others like flowers. At the end of the day, she gathers those flowers given to her and offers them back to God as a bouquet of gratitude.

I love that idea! Giving back to God what is rightfully is His anyway!

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So, I’ve got 2 challenges for you.

1-The next time you serve or volunteer ask yourself, “Am I trying to be successful or valuable?” When you do something at work, are you expecting someone to notice or hoping God will get the credit? When you do get showered with praise, make a point to gather up those flowers and give them back to God as your offering of thanksgiving.

2- If someone does something that made a difference in your life, tell them. Write a note, send a text, or post on their Facebook page. You’ll never know what it means to them to hear, “What a difference you made in my life!”

As we learn together to practice the pursuit of value, those rainbows won’t be so alluring. That pot of gold won’t seem so tempting, and we’ll find our satisfaction in the treasure of God alone.

Share with me what you’re doing to be of value over at the WoW page!

~Amy

 

Do you know what you are going to say when it’s time for “The Talk”?

Last week, I shared with you about a video course for moms to discuss with their daughters all about sex. Even though I’ve talked with my daughters about the basics, I still need some help.

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I thought I was prepared for to talk with my girls about the ‘birds and bees’. I’ve got my little books. We’ve talked some about the facts and that seems pretty easy. But there’s so much more than just the facts……so I realize I need some help.

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And that makes me wonder if you do too?

I feel so strongly that this conversation with my daughters is so important. I’ve got this one shot to get it right. What I’m realizing is the growing up talks cannot be just “one and done” kinda thing.

That’s why I think “The Whole Story” is so great because its not only about information about the facts, but it also gives you the resources to have ongoing conversations. The course helps you develop your relationship with your girls so that the discussion keeps going once the course is finished.

In the 8-12 yr old version, you’ll cover topics like:

  • Her period, including why it happens, how to handle it, and how to make it most comfortable.
  • Other body changes she will be experiencing, including breast development, hair growth, and body odor.
  • What sex is and how babies are made.
  • How to handle boys and peer pressure in the preteen years.
  • How to take care of your body to manage all of these changes.

In the 13-15 yr old version, you’ll cover things like:

  • How to troubleshoot issues with your period that aren’t often talked about.
  • Navigating relationships with guys in the teenage years.
  • Discussions about how to handle social issues like when friends make mistakes, bullying, and online peer pressure.
  • Candid conversation about the highly sexualized world we live in and how to honor God in the midst of that.
  • Learning the skill of styling yourself to send a message–a message that honors God and shows respect for yourself and others

Each version is $39 which includes 1 year access to the videos plus lots of printables, resources, and activities. Both for $69

You can get the VIP package for $99 with lifetime access and participation in a Facebook group.

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But I’ve got a GREAT deal for you! I’ve been given permission to share a $30 off coupon with you for purchasing the VIP package. That’s $69 for both versions of the course with lifetime access! This is a great deal when you have more than one girl in different ages or your want to revisit the videos and resources as your girls grow older. Like I said, you will want to have many conversations as your girls grow up.

Use coupon code: WholeStoryWOW……but hurry….the coupon is only good through Oct 9th!!

I feel this course is so important that I agreed to be an affiliate partner.  So every course you purchase through this special link, I will receive a portion of the fee.

Check out The Whole Story here.
Got any questions? Shoot me an email…

Thanks for letting me share this opportunity with you!
~Amy

When it’s time for “The Talk”

Can we talk Mom to Mom??

I know… I don’t talk much about parenting or child rearing or things of that nature on this blog. I usually just stick to your personal journey as a Christ follower, the Body of Christ, etc……..but in this instance, it’s important.

My heart hurts and there’s a sick feeling in my gut at the extreme sexulization of our culture. There are SO many things to protect our children from in this day and age. It’s so different from when I was growing up just like so many of you…….. It was a BIG deal when a girl got pregnant in high school. Although music and movies had a good deal of implied innuendos and some explicit material, it wasn’t in commercials or plastered on billboards. If you wanted to find some questionable material, you had to put forth some effort to get go out and get it.

Now, the risk of viewing pornography exists on EVERY computer. Teens and children are sexually active at younger and younger ages. There’s sexting and easy access to all manner of movies, music and shows. Kids are exposed to so much more now than ever!!

We know, back in the day, it was tough for parents to talk with their kids about sex, puberty, and all that goes with it! But now, it’s even tougher!!! AND kids are learning things at younger ages, so the pressure is even bigger to get the knowledge to your children before they hear it from someone else!

Add another big factor…….raise your hand if you are comfortable and, in fact, excited about telling your kids about sex?? Anyone? Yep. I thought so……me too…….ugh!

If you are anything like me, the extent of my parental talks was one short talk on STDs when I was 12 and an even shorter (and rather uncomfortable) talk the day before I got married 8-}

So here we are with a hyper-sexulized culture and best-of-intention moms trying their best to give their kids the right information and the best of God’s design for sex so they can grow up to be the fulfilled adults God created them to be!

What’s a mom gonna do?

I have found a wonderful tool to help!

I follow and read several blogs. When I share links, articles, and materials, I ONLY share the information that I believe is the BEST! I have found such an excellent resource for you to share and grow with your daughters about sensitive and tough topic.

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Christian Blogger and Marriage writer, Sheila Wray Gregoire from ToLoveHonorandVacuum.com, has created a fantastic new video course with her daughters called “The Whole Story”! Take a look:

What is The Whole Story

The Whole Story: Not-So-Scary Talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up 

  • An online, video-based course for moms and daughters about sex, puberty, and growing up.
  • Comes in two age groups: One for daughters 10-12, and one for daughters 13-15.
  • The videos are led by “young adult” mentors who feel like “funny big sisters”. (They’re 20 & 22 and have their own ministries!)
  • Then checklists, discussion questions and mother-daughter activity ideas help moms and girls solidify the information and continue the conversation.
  • All taught from a Biblical and Christian worldview
  • The course is $39 per version, or $69 for both. That gives you one year of access
  • The VIP version contains both courses, with lifetime access, and a whole bunch of extra goodies for $99.

I’ve been reading Sheila’s blog for several years now and have gained a lot of insight and guidance to help me be a better wife. Now, I’m so excited that she (along with her daughters) have created a quality course to help me just in the nick of time! My daughters are 12 ,10, and 10, so we are in the prime time window for these talks.

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The course is designed so that you watch the videos together and then have opportunities to continue the discussion about the topic. It’s not meant to be a replacement of a parent, but rather, it’s a resource to help you to successfully build your relationship with your daugther!

The course includes everything you need- online videos, printables, and activities to do together.

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In fact, I am so excited about this course, I’ve been given the opportunity to be an affiliate partner with Sheila and her daughters which means every course you purchase through my special link I get a portion of the proceeds.

In addition to that….Sheila is allowing me to share with you a special coupon: WholeStoryWOW that you can apply to the VIP package. You can get $30 off the $99 VIP package which includes lifetime access to both courses plus all the printables and extra goodies. For less than the price of dinner and a movie for your family, you’ve got access to the resources that can help shape your daughter’s future.

Yeah, that may be kind of heavy but, it’s pretty much true.

I really want to raise my daughters to develop a healthy, Godly view of sex, to know their value as a woman, and have a marriage that exemplifies the mystery of Christ and His Church. I’ve got one chance to do my job as a parent. I’ve got one short season to impact the rest of their lives in such an important way. That’s why I’m so excited that “The Whole Story” is available to help me in this journey with my daughters! And, I know you do too!

Check out this video to find out more information or click on my link here for more information.

If this course isn’t for you in this season of life, that’s totally ok! But, I bet you know someone who is. Would you share this with them?? That would be so awesome!

Just to keep everything out on the table, remember, I’m sharing this with you as an affiliate partner for the course. For every purchase using this link, I will receive a small commission. But make sure you use the coupon code: WholeStoryWOW for $30 off the VIP package! Hurry, the coupon offer will expire by October 9th!

I pray this course will help our girls grow into the women God designed them to be!

~Amy