Have Faith Like A Child

By Brooke Williams, Wholly Loved Blogger, Editor, and Social Media Assistant

Matthew 18:3 “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Really? Hey God, have you met my children?! Do you remember when my oldest threw a white board across the room because she was one letter off on her spelling quiz? Is that what I’m to be like? Oh, and what about when my three-year-old crossed her arms, narrowed her eyes, and then slammed a door in my face because I refused to give her a cookie. I guess I get the point. Act like that, right?

Children can be so frustrating. Anyone who has them knows exactly what I mean! I used to think I was the most patient person in the world…and then I had kids. In the world of radio, where I used to work full time, I dealt with irate sales people with a shrug. I handled last minute deadlines with a smile. And I smoothed over conflicts between others with a joke.

But with kids? It’s all different. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Maybe it’s the constant demands and little to no thanks. Maybe it’s the fact that there are no breaks. Ever. Patience grows thinner by the day!

So Matthew 18:3 is hard to understand at times. Be like a child? You mean whine every time I don’t get my way? Or do you mean demand more, cry more, and complain more?

After a particular trying day in our household where all I wanted to do was get the kids to bed and collapse onto the couch, my oldest, who was 5 at the time, turned it all around for me.

“Sometimes I get scared at night,” she said. I, being exhausted and ready for an end to the day, probably said something like, “Mm hm.”

“When I hear thunder or I get scared,” she went on, “I ask God to wrap His arms around me. And then I can feel Him hugging me and I know I’m safe.”

Jaw drops. Tears roll. Time stops.

And that is why we are to be like children. Because only a child would think of something so profoundly simple. When was the last time I was scared and relied solely on God to wrap His arms around me and get me to the other side of a crisis? My five-year-old got it.

So while God doesn’t necessarily want us to whine and cry like children (even though we do plenty of that if we’re honest, right?), He does want us to open our hearts like a child. Sometimes it’s hard to believe what we can’t see. I struggle with that, I’ll admit. But a child? Never! A child embraces the unknown, imagines what they cannot see, and asks God to hug them when they’re scared. And what do they get in return?

They feel Him. His presence. His Grace. His mercy. They get it all. Everything we’ve ever wanted.

I took a page from my daughter’s book the night she told me God was hugging her. When I laid down to go to sleep, I remembered to tell God about my day, including all the struggles I had with my daughters and the everyday life of being a busy mom. I asked for Him to wrap His arms around me then, and any time He noticed that I was feeling frazzled because I don’t always think to stop and ask. And you know what? I could feel Him. Just like my daughter said.

Sometimes it takes the words of a child to put a stop to our adult ways. But if we take the time to act more like a child, see life for its beauty and appreciate God for who He is, then and only then will we have access to something truly wonderful.

Grow Up

By Julie Opperman

       The goal is to grow, to mature, but sometimes we only think we’re mature. In reality, we miss out on the blessings of just simply being obedient. Childlike faith and “obedience will not always be easy, but it will always be worth it. Obedience to God always brings reward”. (Priscilla Shirer, He speaks to Me, p.11)

       We started a new Bible Study recently by Priscilla Shirer.  It’s one of her earlier studies and as the first video played, I felt a little let down. It seemed too simple, not “deep” enough for the ladies who meet weekly. I started my first day of homework a few days late, because I didn’t feel eager to jump in.  The first lesson was about obedience.  “Yes, yes everyone knows that, the obedience of a child.”

       Just an hour after I read how obedience doesn’t always come easily, I went to the movie with some friends. I hadn’t had a girl’s night out in a very long time. I was excited when they passed out our tickets to see that I would get to sit next to my friend and neighbor.

As we made our way to our seats, I noticed a couple sitting and talking. The gentleman got up from his seat and walked to the back of the theater. Our group filled that entire row except for one seat. The seat the gentleman had left was not his seat at all … it was mine.

“Excuse me, Ma’am, was that your husband?” I asked, but I already knew the answer.

       Here it was, my moment to be obedient.  My husband and I have the privilege of leading our marriage ministry team at our church. We teach classes on marriage and talk about the importance of spending time with your spouse.

Did I believe what we taught?

I walked past my friends and followed the gentleman to the back of the theater.

      “Excuse me, Sir, would you trade seats with me so you can sit with your wife?” I asked.

      “Are you sure?”

Was I? I came to be with my friends, but the words of the study came to mind, “Obedience can require sacrifice.”

 “Yes, it’s more important for you to spend time with your wife than it is for me to sit with friends.”

That was it; we switched seats. There wasn’t any grand fanfare. It was a small gesture, but I knew it was a decision to be obedient in that moment.

       Four days later my family was on our way to volunteer at a school event.  We drove through Starbuck’s and ordered three drinks. When we got to the window I heard the manager say, “Give them their card back, this is on me.”

My husband thanked him and said it wasn’t necessary. Then the manager leaned down and looked directly at me as I sat in the passenger seat and said, “I saw what you did at the movies.”

      “What did you say?” I asked dumbfounded. He repeated it, “I saw you.” We thanked him and drove away.

I was almost in tears. I never saw anyone else in that moment at the theater, just the gentleman and his wife. I couldn’t tell you where anyone else was, how he saw me, or why something that seemed so insignificant had caught his attention. The free drinks were great, but the real treat that morning was in knowing that it wasn’t just the manager who saw me, God saw me.

       I’m excited to see how God is going to use the simple things in my life to dumbfound me. May I never feel too mature or too grown up to have the faith and obedience of a child.

Devoted wife, mother, Christian Leader and Teacher, Julie serves as a Lay Marriage Minister at LifeSpring Church in Bellevue, Nebraska, has a BS in Elementary Education with a Specialization in Early Childhood Development, a former public school teacher and homeschool educator, an Active Duty Army spouse for 20 year and recipient of; The Honorable Order of Ann Morrow Lindbergh, The Honorable Order of Our Lady of Loreto, Presidential Service Awards Gold, Silver, and Bronze, and three Commander’s Awards.

The Power of Thanksgiving

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~Melody Beattie

It was one of those phone calls that makes your stomach literally drop, stirring up a nausea that won’t abate until you learn, will this person you love live or die. And then came the word no one wants to hear—cancer.

It felt like a cruel twist—A year ago in November, while millions prepared for a holiday designed to celebrate gratitude, my mother-in-law learned she’d be facing an intense battle for life. One that resulted in two-hour car rides to Houston, overnights, followed by long days at MD Anderson, a cancer treatment facility so large, one feels as if they’re training for a marathon getting from one end to the other. And all this while fatigue-inducing medicine pumped through her veins.

It would have been easy, and perhaps even expected, and certainly justified, for my mother-in-law to slip into despair. To camp out on the question that has plagued so many, when life hurls a devastating blow: Why me?

And though I imagine that question arose throughout her diagnosis and treatment, she deliberately chose not to stay there.

She deliberately chose life, and by life, I mean much more than her fight against cancer. Through the incredible power of thankfulness, she chose to embrace every moment and blessing God sent her way.

When she felt tired, I heard, “I’m blessed to have such a supportive family.”

When in pain, I heard, “I’m blessed to have such caring doctors.”

When forced to make the long trek from one elevator into another, down one hall after another, she looked around, made eye contact, and offered a kind word to the other patients, many of whom looked as if they’d shriveled inside themselves, saying to me once they left, “I’m so grateful I am doing as well as I am.”

We tend to notice, with increased prominence, those things we focus on most. When we focus on the hard, it only gets harder, until it paralyzes us in darkness and despair. But when we focus—or fix our thoughts, as Philippians four puts it—on the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and those things that are excellent or worthy of praise, we experience a peace and underlying—fortifying!—joy that surpasses our circumstances.

I think often, we expect gratitude to come easily. When the sun is shining and our children are home and well, when we ourselves feel healthy and strong or are surrounded by blessings, praise often comes unbidden.

But what about when life hits us hard? It is then that we have a beautiful and precious opportunity to “Make thankfulness [our] sacrifice to God” (Ps. 50:14a).

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul tells us to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ.”

For this is God’s will for us.

Perhaps, in part, because He knows the hope that comes from shifting our focus off of our struggles and onto the mercies He showers upon us each and every day. If you’re having a difficult time seeing those mercies, I encourage you to consider my mother-in-law’s story and consider how you might follow her example. Doing so likely won’t alleviate the struggle, but I guarantee it will increase your strength to fight it. 

What Your Eyes Say

By Dawn Ford

"Don’t look at me in that tone of voice!"

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When I was in my early twenties I was pretty cocky. I’d come from a dysfunctional background where my parents had made some pretty big mistakes. I determined I was not going to do the same things because I knew better. Soon, I developed an attitude. Nobody was going to tell me the way things were. I had it all figured out, and if I didn’t I’d figure it out on my own.

This was before I knew God’s warnings in Proverbs 6. Verses 16-18 lay out six things that God hates, and seven things that are detestable to Him. Number one on that list is HAUGHTY EYES.

The eye-rolling, arrogant, disdain that ripples from the inside of our hearts to the windows of our souls—the eyes. Matthew 6:22 speaks of the eyes as such, “the eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

Anyone who has had a teenager roll their eyes at them knows about haughty eyes. Attitude in capital letters.

Oh, yeah. I had it. I had turned the fear of instability and the hate for the lifestyle I’d suffered into an impenetrable shell. And any attitude that I received in return only fueled my own.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

And Proverbs 18:12 Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

Each time something I did or said came back on me, it stung. I didn’t realize it, but God was trying to reach out to me and prove my attitude needed to go. I’m ashamed to tell you how many times I went around in circles having to learn that lesson.

Eventually God used His Word as an industrial Windex to clean up my haughtiness. Years later I would come full circle to Proverbs 6 while raising teenagers. I found out not only did God hate haughty eyes, I did, too. Luckily for my children, I’d already learned how futile it was. I knew better, and with a humble spirit I taught my kids about what their eyes said.

God is always at work with us as believers, either with ourselves or reaching out to show others the goodness of the Lord. Please consider joining us at our next conference to learn about how God wholly loves you and makes you unique to carry out His good purpose in this world.

Our desire is to help you discover what that purpose is, and to give you the tools and encouragement to live that out. Join us for one of our upcoming conferences to learn how to live authentically, as you were created. Because when we live wholly loved, everything changes!

Visit our Events page to find out more, or email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com to book us for your next women's event. 

The Despairing Heart--What if We Could Save the One

What if We Could Save the One by Chaka Heinze

Hatred and enmity are like agar in a petri dish, but instead of breeding bacteria, they reap a harvest of despair. And this hopelessness exacts a cost. A price that is often paid by the young, the vulnerable, and the impressionable in our society.

Recently, my dear friend’s eighteen-year-old son died. The cause of death: depression. The method: suicide. And then I spoke to my sister, and her friend recently lost a child in much the same way. And yesterday, I talked to yet another friend who was mourning the loss of a sixteen-year-old to suicide—the third child in their high school this year.

The truth is that despair is not a new concept or unique to modern America. And it is also true that every victim of suicide cannot be saved by the choices that we make.

But what if you could save one?

What we say and do impacts our environment. Like spores, our words and actions can perpetuate a plague of ill will, or like seeds, they can cultivate hope.

God warns us of the incredible power that resides in each of us to harm or to nurture the human spirit. Through His people, He implores us again and again to understand that the way we treat one another is of utmost importance … and He takes it personally. (Matthew25:40)

“…Be at peace with each other…” (Mark 9:50)

“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

“Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)

“…Stop passing judgment on one another…” (Romans 14:13)

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:17)

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

“Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

. “…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

“…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

“…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

Love. Peace. Acceptance. Submission. Humility. Forgiveness. What if these were the seeds we sowed freely into our homes, our schools, our online communities? What if we chose to be bastions of hope rather than harbingers of fear, or anxiety, or anger? What if the vulnerable among us saw life, and light, and possibility as the fruit of our lives?

I’m of the opinion that we should treat others as if they are “at risk.”

At risk of feeling unlovable.

At risk of being marginalized.

At risk of suffering a mental crisis.

At risk of being overwhelmed.

At risk of mistreatment.

Because—in a very real sense—we are all in danger of suffering the everyday wounds of life. And sometimes these wounds prove fatal.

Eighteen-year-old Connor didn’t end up on a bridge with a gun, contemplating the end of his life because he was unloved. On the contrary, his vigilant parents did everything they were supposed to—recognized the signs, sought treatment, and poured out unconditional love. Sometimes, even our most helpful words and our best love aren’t enough to overcome the damage of living in a fallen world.

But some of Connor’s final thoughts hint at the hope that it’s possible for us to make a difference for someone:

“…If I was to say one thing it would be the following: aim to try to treasure everyone you meet in your life. If everyone accepted each other with open arms and loved one another this would be a much much much better place. Work to make others’ lives better.”

But what if you could save one?

I’m willing to serve a little more selflessly, to love a little more freely, and to speak a little more kindly to find out.

How about you?

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact CityCare Counseling’s confidential suicide hotline at 1-800-448-3000 or dial 911 in case of emergencies.

***

If we belong to Christ, God has made us His ambassadors--His representatives in a hurting and sin-ravaged world. We are to speak life, hope, truth, and love. Through us, God longs to shine His light into the darkness. This is a life-saving, life-giving mission. Will you accept it? 

 

Big Me, Little God Syndrome

By guest blogger Jennifer Henn

There's a way to guarantee our misery. To necessarily create an ever-increasing bad attitude. But there's also a way to grab hold of joy. And herein lies our daily battle, a battle that must be fought and must be fought well. A battle we absolutely have the power to win, if we'd but engage. 

As today's guest, Jennifer Henn, shares in her poignant and transparent post, the choice is ours. 

Big Me, Little God Syndrome by Jennifer Henn

I’m too big again. My frustration grows, I’ve taken over and I’m miserable. How did I let this happen? I told myself to be careful. I even used to think this could never happen to me again, but it has, and I’m sorrowful. Saddened. Thank goodness there’s a remedy for every time I’m the biggest thing in my life.

In my journal, I circle “ME” and draw a line through it, hoping a visual will help. I go to my Bible and look up the words of John the Baptist, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV).

Making my life about me causes Big Me, Little God Syndrome. This syndrome comes on every time I make my circumstances bigger than God. Then overwhelming feelings of worry and doubt take over.

 Then I remember, more of You Lord and less of me.

The thing I’ve spent the most time worrying about are my children. We are a homeschool family and like other homeschool moms, there have been times I’ve wondered if I was doing enough. Times I doubted whether my kids’ academics were up to standard with public school kids. Also, there’s the whole socialization thing. Are we weird homeschoolers?

When my sons were middle school aged, and my daughter upper elementary, my health failed. We had no choice but to enroll the kids in public school.

Now I would know if my schooling measured up.

I went from total control of my kids’ curriculum and activities, to no control. I loved schooling my kids at home, but I held on too tight. I craved homeschool success complete with learning, fun activities, and a fairly clean house. I also thought middle school would be the worst time to enroll your kids in school for the first time. My plan fell apart and God gave me the gift of letting go.

There were lessons in letting go. The basket of my life was turned upside down, my circumstances were beyond me, but God remained the same. I learned to trust God with an open hand. A God is with me  no-matter-what-the-circumstance, kind of trust. The balance was turning in the right direction, more of God, less of me. For two years I struggled with multiple health issues.

The situation was beyond me, but never God. My kids went to public school. God’s grace was sufficient for the adjustments they had to make, and they did well academically.

That was seven years ago. I went back to homeschooling and two have graduated. I also had a sort of graduation. One day another homeschool parent said I was the most laid back mom she knew. What a surprise, I had changed. Laid back is not my natural tendency.

However, the battle isn’t over. I fight a continuous habit of making my life too much about me. The remedy comes by looking closer at who God is. God is my Rock and Salvation, my Lord and King, the one I put my trust in. I think of these things in practical terms as I go throughout each day. My part is small, God’s part is big.  I need to make God the center of my prayers, not me. When I remember who God is, once again, I become smaller and Christ bigger.

***

Jennifer Henn strives to leave perfection behind and embrace reality. She shares with transparency the fun, failures, and heart-aches she’s had while homeschooling her three children. Her true passion is fulfilled by encouraging women who feel defeated.

After 16 years of homeschooling, she’s on to her next career as she writes, speaks to homeschool groups, serves on the board of a nonprofit, and leads a Word Weavers critique group.

Her heart and home are full where she lives in metro Atlanta with her husband of twenty-five years, her three kids and two cats. For homeschool encouragement, visit Jennifer online at JenniferHenn.com

 

We all struggle with Big Me, Little God Syndrome from time to time, but the more we focus on ourselves, the more miserable we become. It's when we die to ourselves (surrendering our dreams, our will, our desires to God) that we truly come alive. That's when we are freed to live authentically, to be the women God created us to be. 

Join us this Saturday at Living Water Church in Plattsmouth to learn how to find the incredible freedom available to us through surrender. Visit our Eventbrite page to find out more. 

Fearless When Ill-equipped

by Jennifer Slattery

“[God] wants those who belong to Him to be brave and fearless. He Himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by the courage of the Spirit.” ~ Tertullian

I felt squeezed. In every direction. Sleep deprived and with more on my to-do list than I could possibly accomplish, pressing deadlines, and an upcoming speaking engagement I hadn’t begun to prepare for, I felt ready to explode. Or hide.

My brain, held captive by my insecurities and fears, refused to function. When I most needed it to shine.

My fear—that I’d fail, and in failing that I’d let everyone down. The conference director who had already purchased my plane ticket. Her team who had already sent out their promotional material, listing me as one of the keynotes. Their attendees, who had spent good money on the conference and were expecting to hear a fresh word.

And more than that, I was afraid I’d look stupid. As I stared at a blank computer screen, my eyes gritty from lack of sleep, my nerves tightly coiled, I worried I wouldn’t come up with anything.

I had nothing. No words. No thoughts.

I suppose much of that came from mounting stress, and sheer exhaustion. In the middle of taking accelerated classes and with an already booked summer, God called my husband and I to something incredibly difficult. Something that took every ounce of strength we had and left me in tears daily. We knew this task was from God. But … what about all our other commitments?

I couldn’t simply walk away. But neither could I, it seemed, walk forward. My insecurities, my fear of failure, my mounting negative thinking, kept chipping away at my strength.

So what’d I do? I stepped away. To pray. To give this thing, this task I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for, to God. And as I sat in His presence, His peace overshadowed my anxiety, and His truth stilled my fears.

I knew He’d called me to this engagement, so I decided—yes, decided. I made the choice—to trust Him to give me the ability to fill this role—as He desired. And I reminded myself that this thing wasn’t about me.

Nor was it up to me. It never is. In fact, it’s when I’m resting fully in His grace and leaning deepest into Him that I find my greatest strength.

This is a choice we all must make, whenever our fears and insecurities begin to turn our ears from God’s call, whatever that call may be.

Consider Francis Chan’s words, taken from Forgotten God:

“How much it grieves [God] to watch His children ignore the promises He’s made. Throughout Scripture due to fear that those promises won’t be kept! Empowering His children with the strength of the Holy Spirit is something the Father wants to do. It’s not something we have to talk Him into. He genuinely wants to see us walk in His strength.”

Walking in God’s strength. Listening, with a surrendered heart, for His guidance, then stepping forward in faith, trusting Him to come through.

Is there something God has called you, something that makes your stomach tighten and your knees wobble? Maybe to initiate conversation with a new neighbor or launch a women’s Bible study? Maybe share your faith with a friend or coworker? If so, how does remembering God will be strong on your behalf, that you don’t have to be, give you courage? What are some ways you can lean into Him and rest in His strength? How do our thoughts play into that?

We all struggle with negative thinking, and so often, we become our own limiting factor. We allow our insecurities and fears to hinder our obedience and to prevent us from living out the awesome and life-changing role God hand-crafted each of us to fill. But God calls us to greatness. To live courageously. To be life-changers, and we want to help you do just that!

Join us on the 25th at Living Water Church in Plattsmouth for one of our Wholly Loved Conferences. You can find out more and sign up HERE. We'd also love to join you for your next women's event. Email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com to find out more, to book us for a Wholly Loved conference, or to inquire about having booking one of our speakers independently.

You might also enjoy:

Living as a Hero by Chaka Heinze

From Fear to Faith, by Jennifer Slattery

 

Freedom in Christ

Do you feel less than? Like, no matter how hard you try, you're failing? If so, you're not alone. It was a common theme shared during the breakout sessions of our last Wholly Loved conference. Today our breakout leader, Dawn Ford, shares how we can find freedom from this crippling false label many of us wear.

Freedom in Christ by Dawn Ford

My heart was breaking for the ladies I spoke with the other day about their purpose in Christ. Our speaker had presented a moving story about her struggle to figure out her purpose through difficult circumstances in her life. When I sat to discuss the subject, the conference attendees were ready to talk. The common theme? They thought they were failures as mothers, as wives, as women.

These beautiful, smart, amazing women thought they were less than. Less than the glossy stories telling them they can do it all and be all and still have every hair in place at the end of the day. Less than other women around them appeared to have it more together than them. Less than the mother whose children are more obedient than theirs.

These were faithful, prayerful women, and they felt like utter failures. I grieved their pain. I believe God did, also.

Psalms 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I recalled my struggles with my oldest son, a strong-willed child, years ago. As a new mother with an opinionated teenager, it was a difficult transition. I drove a beat-up car when younger women owned new vehicles. How could they do it when I was just scraping by. When everyone talked about summer vacation plans, I felt lucky to pay for a pool pass for the boys. I remember thinking, ‘What am I doing wrong that everyone else seems to be doing right?’

I felt the same shame, regret, and unworthiness as our conference attendees expressed. What was I doing wrong?

I was focusing on all the wrong things.

With my strong-willed son, I battled him head on with what I wanted. It’s not wrong to make our children do chores, respect rules, and cooperate. But, I was grumbling at him, sometimes before I even asked him to do something, because I knew he was going to be difficult. I later learned some tricks on how to approach him more positively, to give choices that made him feel in charge of making right decisions, instead of having to bow to my will because I was the mom.

When I coveted the new car, the fancy house, the shiny new promotion others got, I needed to be thankful instead of being spiteful.

Philippians 4:6 (NLT) says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.”

The trick was changing my vision of what I needed. God had already provided me with a house, a car, clothes, food, and a family to enjoy life with. Recognizing this, I became more thankful for what I already had, and that took the sting away from what I felt I lacked.

I quit judging myself by others.

How defeating it is to hold ourselves up to standards that are not God’s. Matthew 24 talks about serving two masters, God or money. You can’t serve the love of having (the newest car, the biggest TV, the most expensive house in the neighborhood) and still serve God. Money is a fleeting and vicious master. Always changing, never satisfied. You can’t serve both.

When the women in my breakout group began to realize they were fully loved and knew where their real purpose lay—with glorifying God in all they do, they found true freedom in Christ. It was a moving experience. One they won’t forget. I know I won’t.

If you are like most of us who need to have the God’s truth spoken in your life, please join us at a future Wholly Loved conference.

This coming Saturday, we'll be at St. Paul's United Methodist in Papillion, and on the 25th we'll be at Living Water Church in Plattsmouth. Find out more HERE, or email us at contactus(at)whollyloved(dot)com to book us for your next women's event.