Revealing a Faith That Stands

mother and child and inspirational message

Moms, what you do each day matters. How you live your faith, it matters. When you pray, turn to praise music, or simply power through—it matters.

They say children learn more about faith from watching us than they do from anything we might tell them. And though I think that’s probably true, I hope it’s not. Because there’ve been so many times I’ve messed up. Times when I’ve chosen selfishness over love, pride over forgiveness, and disobedience over surrender.

If left on my own, I would’ve completely messed our daughter up ten times over. But whenever my heart would begin to stray or deception set in, God would gently nudge me, saying, “This is the way, My daughter. Walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). And because of that—because of Him—situations that could’ve destroyed our family and greatly hindered our daughter’s faith had the opposite effect.

The most memorable occurred when we were living in Louisiana. The year before, my husband had quit his job and we packed our things and headed south, far from the church and friends we’d grown to love, only to find our lives uprooted less than six months later.

I was angry, frightened, and confused, and began to withdraw within myself, so consumed with what was going on within me, I was completely oblivious to how my growing irritability and sadness affected everyone else.

women and childUntil one morning, while laying in bed, Bible spread open before me, I read Proverbs 14:1, which says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (NIV). The moment I finished reading the verse, my daughter said, “Mommy?” and I looked up to find her standing in my bedroom doorway, watching me.

My heart wrenched as realization took hold. My daughter needed me, and she needed to see Jesus in me. She needed to see not only the faith that shouted hallelujahs on Sunday mornings or carted her off to Bible class. She needed to see the type of faith that could stand when it felt like the world was crumbling.

She needed to see what it looked like to lean on Jesus—that this Christianity thing was more than cheery slogans adults say to one another. She needed to see a real, living, steadfast faith, and our season of chaos offered the perfect opportunity.

From that morning on, I determined to behave differently. I was still sad and frightened. I was still angry over some of things that had happened, but instead of pulling within myself, I began to focus on Jesus. Dinner turned from times of tension and silence to prayers and family devotions. Bedtimes turned to faith discussions where we openly talked about what we knew to be true in the midst of all that was going on.

And as a result, our family grew closer and I believe, Jesus became all the more real to a young, impressionable, and equally frightened little girl who needed an unshakable faith to stand on.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you reveal enduring faith when life feels hard or uncertain? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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Confidence in Uncertainty

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Photo by Geralt taken from pixabay.com

“I’m quitting my job.”

It was the last thing I expected to hear from my ultra dependable, hard-working husband. And yet, looking back, I should’ve seen this coming. He’d been beaten down and overworked for far too long. I should’ve responded to his statement by wrapping him up in a giant hug.

Instead I hit freak-out mode. He was our sole bread winner. We were living in an expensive suburb of California. I stayed home with our daughter, homeschooled her in fact. And had zero desire to change our education plans.

Fast forward a few months, and my husband handed our house keys to our realtor, in essence declaring to her, our neighbors, our friends and one another that we didn’t plan on returning.

He’d turned his work keys in the night before.

My husband still hadn’t found a job, though we were hopeful. And I was panicked, like ready to vomit panicked, though I largely kept my emotions in check–to Steve and my daughter. My prayers, however, were another matter entirely:

Help us, Lord! Fix this! Give me just a hint that all this will work out. 

Then, we packed our van, and headed for the Grand Canyon. For a family vacation.

Photo by Unsplash taken from Pixabay.com

Photo by Unsplash taken from Pixabay.com

Because everyone goes on vacation when unemployed right? Made perfect sense to me.

Not.

Long story short, God came through. My husband received a job offer that very day. Our house sold for full asking price. That very day. We went on our vacation and the Slattery family lived happily ever after.

Not. So not. Because life is full of upheavals, uncertainty, set-backs and gut-churning panic moments. But over the years, having made it through numerous free falls and winding hikes, I’ve learned how to find peace in times of uncertainty. All I needed to do was follow–cling to, believe in, and live out–God’s Word. Because His promises will never, ever fail. 

The next time you’re facing a panicked moment, follow the steps laid out in Psalm 37:

TrustVersepic3 Trust in the Lord and do good.
    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand. (NLT)

Trust. Not in our circumstances, our spouse, our savings account or that job, but trust in the Lord. Remember His character. He is always and only faithful, loving and true. Remember His promises and how He has proved them true for you in the past. Center your mind on truth–what you know from God’s Word, and refuse to engage negative, fretful thinking.

Do good. God has a good, eternal work for us to do each day. Some days that ministering to a neighbor or serving the needy. Other times it’s building up our family and pointing them to Christ. Consider that God may have put you in the position you’re in, as uncomfortable or frightening as it may be, to touch a heart or reveal His grace through you. So do good. Serve Him in the hard and the easy. And take joy in knowing your purpose extends beyond you and your circumstances. 

Delight in Christ. Draw near to Him through prayer, music, and Bible reading. Soak up His presence; let His Holy Spirit fill you completely, knowing He will be strong on your behalf. Don’t let the uncertainty of the moment rob you of the sweet treasure of resting in His presence.

Commit everything to Christ. I could likely write an entire book unpacking this one but I’ll sum it up with one word: surrender. Surrender the moment, the situation, yourself, your heart and plans, to God. Leave it all in His hands, knowing He’s working at this moment on your behalf.

Be still and wait patiently. He will fight for you. He is working out a plan for your life, for your family, for your marriage–for whatever you’re facing. You won’t move things along any faster by fretting, but you may when you take the time to be still in His presence, soaking up His strength and listening for His direction. At least, when you do that, there’s a much better chance you won’t do anything to make matters worse through a panicked reaction.

Follow. If you belong to Christ, your spiritual ears have been quickened so that you can recognize His voice (John 10:16). Scripture promises God will and does speak to us (Isaiah 30:21). Psalm 16:7 says, “Even at night my heart instructs me.” So listen. Then obey.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! What are some ways you grab hold of peace when life feels crazy and uncertain? Do you have any go-to verses you like to pray or meditate on? Any songs you find especially helpful?

I’ve been listening to the song below again and again. And again. It’s so beautiful, and a great reminder that no matter what we face, it is well. Because God will never leave us nor forsake us and all of His promises prove true.

For those in the Des Moines area, you can join me for the following:

May 13th: The Power of Grace

Time: 6:30pm

Location: Radiant Church located at 1300 Metro East Drive

Des Moines, IA

May 14th: Book signing, Barnes and Noble, Des Moines, IA. BooksigningposterforDesMoinesB&N-page-001

1pm-4pm

Where: 4550 University Avenue, West Des Moines, IA 50266

(Is it me or does the signing jpg to the right appear blurry? Hm … might need to fix that!)

I also invite you to join me in prayer. On Thursday the 12th, after an interview with “I’ve Been There Ministries,” I’ll be speaking to the men at Bethel House shelter. Please pray that they will sense God’s deep love for them and they’ll draw near to Him in saving faith.

The next night, I’m speaking at Radiant Church, also in Des Moines. We’re hoping women served by Jericho Ministries, a ministry that reaches out to women working in the adult entertainment industry in the Des Moines  Metro, will attend my talk on Friday. Please pray that they will be moved to come and that through my talk they’ll sense God’s deep love for them and will be driven to grab hold of the freedom available through Christ.

Reaching the Fork in the Road

So much struggle. So much uncertainty. So much pain. And in one moment, one simple, ID-10016416rational choice, she could leave it all behind. Start over. Follow the easy path.

Or so it seemed….

As I read Ruth 1:1-8, I wondered how Ruth’s life would have changed if she chose to leave Naomi and return to the land of her people. Where she could stay with her relatives, find a new husband, have children, and live a life of ease.

At least, standing at the fork of indecision, that must have been how it seemed.

Read verses 8-10 again here.

To paraphrase, after Ruth’s husband died, her widowed mother-in-law’s urgings presented Ruth with a choice: She could focus on her grief, on her problems and self-preservation or she could die to herself and her needs and love her mother-in-law more than herself.

Let’s not lose sight of the significance of this. Here were two widowed women living during a time when husbands were largely a woman’s only hope of survival. This was before welfare and life insurance policies. In this agrarian society, to live without a husband meant one would be forced to depend on the generosity of others. (You can read more about widowhood in Bible times here.)

So in essence, choosing to stay with Naomi rather than return to her homeland, Ruth would be choosing a life that, could quite possibly, result in homelessness and hunger.

Can you imagine the fear? The inner turmoil this must have created?

I suspect some of you know the rest of her story, but let’s pause here, at this moment of intense pain and uncertainty. At this place of incredible tragedy, where, having lost her husband, Ruth had to decide: hold on to her life–focus on self, or surrender her life to God, not knowing what lay ahead.

In chapter one of Beyond I Do, Ainsley was given that same choice. Go back home and let someone else deliver that package to Deborah’s sick friend, or die to self, pushing past her fear, and obey.

Each day, we’re given that same choice as well, and how we decide directly affects our trajectory. With each choice, we either step closer to God’s call for us or we venture one step further away.

WeekOneVerseBIDStudy

If we try to hold on to our life, our dreams, our goals; if we focus on self-preservation, we lose. But if we surrender EVERYTHING, we win. Every time.

Oh, if only we could see the road ahead! Then our choices would be easier, wouldn’t they? But God is asking us to trust.

If you haven’t had a chance to read today’s Bible passage, or if you’re just joining us, you can read Ruth 1:1-8 here. If you haven’t purchased Beyond I Do, the novel our study springboards from, you can get an ecopy for under a buck or print copy for under ten here.

Let’s talk about this.

I encourage you to write Matthew 16:25 on an index card and keep it where you’ll regularly see it. The abundant life Christ offers begins and is sustained by surrender. But to surrender, we must learn to die to ourselves.

I’ve been told the questions I posed Thursday were a bit… abundant so I’m going to post a shortened list today. 🙂 Even so, please don’t feel as if you have to answer them all. Rather, choose a few to think and talk about and journal on.

I encourage you to join the discussion here, through our email loop (let me know if you’d like to join. 🙂 ) or on our study’s FB page.

Our Bible reading: Ruth 1:1-8
Focus: evaluating our past and present hurts in light of God’s sovereignty and grace.
What thoughts arose as you read Ruth 1:1-8?
We read about Naomi’s heartache but not much about Ruth’s. Why do you think that is?
What are some difficulties Ruth faced as a widow?
Why do you think Ruth chose not, at least from what we see, to voice her pain to Naomi?
In what ways can we see Ruth’s love for her mother-in-law?
In what ways did Ruth exhibit self-sacrifice?
When has God asked you to focus on others and not on your pain or trial, and what was the result?
ACTION PLAN: What might God be asking you to do this week?
Make sure to stop by Beth’s blog on Friday to discuss Ruth 1:8-22

Some questions to consider and pray about in preparation for Friday’s discussion:
What is it that keeps me from my calling?
What stops you from moving forward with God, or, if you are following God, what makes this difficult?
What does self-preservation mean to you and has it affected your walk with the Lord?
What are some ways you can know what God is calling you to?

 

 

Hiding Beneath My Father’s Arms

Our family is in a period of uncertaintly, a time where we wake up each morning saying, “Okay, God, what next?” I don’t need to go into too many details except to say, we understand God’s admonishion in James 4:13 “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” For a plotter, scheduler, preparer like me, this gets a little uncomfortable. And it leaves me with two choices: Angst over a perpetual list of what-ifs, or rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Resting doesn’t come easy. Nor does waiting…for that job offer, that phone call, that medical report, whatever,…Oh, how I long to plan! To know! To do!

But God says, “Trust in me.”

Psalm 16:1-11

1 Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.

2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
3 I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.

5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay. (Although verses 8-11 are what’s referred to as a Messianic Psalm, referring to Jesus and His ressurrection, God has promised to never abandon us as well. Faithfulness to those He loves is who He is. It is His very nature.)
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

What about you? Are you going through a time of transition or uncertainty? What are some certain, unwavering truths you can hold tight to? Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about resting in the Father’s arms.