How to Stand Strong in 2023

How to Stand Strong in 2023
As I prayed about how the Lord would have me direct my focus this year, I kept coming back to the image of a tree. Some of my favorite Scripture memory passages talk about trees. (I’ll share more about those in posts to come!) And recently, as I looked at some bracelets hanging on my jewelry board, I remembered a theme we discussed in a women’s Bible study some years back.

Be Rooted.

These are the words on a bracelet I purchased partly to support a friend’s fundraiser and partly to remind myself of what we were learning as we took a deep dive into Colossians 2:6-7. 

“So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Let’s break it down…

First of all, have you received Christ Jesus as Lord? This means you’ve recognized that your sins have separated you from our holy Creator God; that you’ve accepted the death of Jesus on the cross in your place; and that in believing in his death and resurrection, you’ve received forgiveness for your sins and have a relationship with God that will last for all eternity! Oh, sister, I hope this is true for you! Whether or not it is, I invite you to meditate for at least a few minutes on some words just a few verses down, Colossians 2:13-15.

So for those who have received Christ as Lord, we are instructed to:
  • Continue to live in him…
  • Rooted and built up in him…
  • Strengthened in the faith as we were taught…
  • And overflowing with thankfulness. (Notice how each part builds on the previous phrase?)
If you’re an English nerd like me, you may find it interesting that only the first and last parts of the instruction are active on our parts. The rest is passive. Being rooted and built up in Christ, being strengthened in the faith, even the teaching of that faith–all of those things are done FOR us! A seed doesn’t actively decide to send down roots as it grows. It just happens–provided, of course, that the conditions are right for that seed to grow! Likewise, our “rootedness” comes about as a work of grace on our behalf. We certainly have choices when it comes to the conditions surrounding our seed, though, don’t we?

To foster conditions that would yield strong spiritual roots, I would suggest…
  • Watering our seed daily with the Word (Colossians 3:16, Isaiah 55:10-11)
  • Prayerfully spending time with the Son (see what I did there?! Son…sun…get it?!) (Colossians 4:2-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • Guarding our hearts and minds, choosing to meditate on that which is true, pure, lovely, admirable… (Colossians 3:1-3, Philippians 4:8)
Dear homeschool mama, as this new year begins, are you rooted? I pray you are and that you know what to do to keep from being tossed by the storms of life! When YOU are rooted in your own relationship with Jesus, your children will learn to be rooted as well (just like the verse says, “strengthened in the faith as you were taught”). And helping our children be rooted in their own relationship with Christ will prepare them to fulfill God’s purposes in their own generation!


If you're not already in our supportive community for homeschool moms, I invite you to join us so you can receive encouragement as you grow your roots and help your children do the same!

And if these verses and thoughts resonate with you, I invite you to dig a little deeper with me in this 7-day "Be Rooted" challenge. No sales, no spam, just short, daily emails with a more in-depth look at Colossians 2:6-7. If you don't already have a Bible study going, this might be a way to get back into the Word. And if you do, perhaps the daily opportunity to meditate on this portion of Scripture will encourage you to BE ROOTED!

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Unexpected Gifts

Unexpected Gifts
Have you ever noticed that sometimes the best things can happen when our plans go awry? An unexpected snow storm cancels appointments, and you're gifted with extra time to be home with your family. The item you placed on special order for Christmas suddenly isn't available, but you somehow find it available at a lower cost (with faster delivery). The fundraiser you worked so hard on didn't reach your total donation goal, but an individual donor out of the blue blessed your nonprofit with a generous year-end gift (which happened to surpass the total that the fundraiser brought in).

All of the above examples are real! Their level of importance in the scheme of eternity varies, of course. Yet they represent a few ways I've seen the little grace notes of God's love song in my life.

As I think about how often we find gifts in unexpected places, I'm reminded of the chapter I contributed to the book collaboration Absolute Vision. "When Your Vision Needs CPR" tells the story of how my dreams completely changed as God worked in my heart and through my circumstances to give me a new vision. This came at a time when I felt as if my own hopes and desires were fading away right in front of me. 

When I was a starry-eyed college graduate (and a new bride), I never could have imagined...
  • Being a mother to 9 children
  • Homeschooling my children through high school
  • Caring for a child with special needs
  • Founding a nonprofit ministry
  • Running a business that allows me to use my God-given skills and passions
All of the above--bullets on my life résumé--are things I am immensely proud of and thankful for. And yet ALL of the above are also UNEXPECTED GIFTS! 

I never set out to have a large family. 
I never thought we'd homeschool beyond 5th grade.
I never would have even thought to ask God for a child with significant health issues and developmental delays.
I never dreamed of starting a nonprofit.

And while I DID dream of running my own business, I never would have imagined the turn my business efforts have taken, all because of these incredible, unexpected gifts.

What unexpected gifts might God be placing in your life?
How might He use those gifts to shift your dreams?

If you're a homeschooling mama who is feeling the ache of wondering whether "this is all there is" or whether you can REALLY "do this," I get it. I hear your heart's cry, because I've felt it myself. Reach out and let's make some time for YOU. Give yourself a gift this season: the gift of finding joy right where God has placed you, knowing it's part of HIS vision for your life. 
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Homeschooling Through the Busy + Hard Times

Homeschooling Through the Busy + Hard Times
Last week we explored what it can look like to homeschool through the holidays. This week I'm pondering some rhyming words and how they can help us seek God's heart for our homeschool when life feels too busy or just plain hard. I pray these thoughts can be an encouragement to you if you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged...whether during the holiday season or any time of year.

GRACE
Mama, when life is difficult, do you lean on God's grace? Are you rooted in the truth of who he is and who you are in Christ? In case you need a gentle reminder, we don't have to do it all. We don't have to BE all. God IS our all in all, and his grace covers us and brings us into an eternal relationship with him. If you're feeling stretched thin, take some deep breaths with your eyes closed and ask the Lord to show you the many ways he showers grace on you and your family. Then allow yourself to wallow in that wonderful, amazing grace! If our almighty, holy God can lavish us with grace...shouldn't we at least sprinkle a little on ourselves?! Yet we are often so hard on ourselves, berating our weaknesses and failures. And sadly, this mindset spills over onto our children, whether or not we intend for it to happen. 

Certainly, we must model for our children what to do when we sin. We should teach them to confess sin to God and the people we've hurt and ask for forgiveness. But we also need to model for them what to do when we simply bump up against our human limitations. Being weary or leaving a to-do list unfinished is not a sin! We must differentiate between fleshly failures that require forgiveness and healthy human limitations that simply require...rest. Grace. The ability to laugh at ourselves and start over.

SPACE
In the guidebook I wrote for mamas expecting a baby with a life-limiting diagnosis, I encouraged them during the difficult journey to give themselves "lots of grace and lots of space." I actually think that's an appropriate bit of advice for ALL mothers! We all need margin in our lives for the many times we need to rearrange plans and schedules because of unexpected events. Do you leave space in your day or week for this? Or are you so booked up that any change in circumstances will throw everything off? 

How about mental space? Does your brain have time to rest and be bored (important aspects for cultivating creativity!), or are you scrolling social media or navigating the internet, jumping from one distraction to another so much that your brain is constantly buzzing from all the input?

Sometimes we need emotional space. Perhaps we recognize the need for space to grieve. To process a transition. To evaluate a complex relationship.

And finally, spiritual space is crucial to everything else discussed here. If you don't yet have a habit of DAILY being in the Word and praying often (on your own and with your husband and children), I encourage you to do whatever it takes to carve out the space in your daily routine to make this a priority. That leads to our next word...

PLACE
Colossians 1:17-18 tell us that Christ "is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." When Jesus has first place in your life and you are seeking to follow and glorify him, life truly does go so much better! That's not to say we can escape difficulties, but Jesus helps us order our lives in such a way that we can navigate busy and hard times with grace and ease, being confident that "he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6).

When we follow Jesus first, our marriage takes the next place of priority, and then our children. Every family has different dynamics, of course, but these relationships are divinely ordered for our benefit and for God's glory. If we change up the order, we cause ourselves and our loved ones grief and difficulty. It's worth a quick assessment from time to time to ask ourselves: am I placing Christ first in my life? Do I put my children before my husband? Do I place activities (even good ones, such as ministry) as a higher priority than the primary relationships God has given me?


RACE
I'll close this post with the thought that we all have our own race to run. We cannot compare ourselves to anyone else. And...as I've been learning...I cannot even compare myself to myself! I often lament that I can't do [insert activity] the way I used to 10 years ago. (Multitasking, for example, is something I used to be much better at than I am now!) I can't compare our homeschool life in 2022 to what our homeschooling looked like in 2012 or 2005. The race I'm running now looks much different from the race I ran as a young bride, a new mother, a mom of 3, or a mom of 6 holding down the fort while her husband was deployed.

And let's not allow the word "race" to make us anxious...because our individual race might involve at any given time walking, sprinting, crawling, or even heaving on the side of the path for awhile. "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Grace. 
Space.
Place.
Race.

Which one of these resonates with you today? Share a word of encouragement you've received so others can be blessed on their journey as well!

*****

P.S. Mama, if you're feeling overwhelmed, let's make some space on our calendars for a clarity call. I have a limited number of spots, but I'd be honored to walk alongside you and encourage you on your own race. 
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Our View of Suffering

Our View of Suffering
"Our suffering should not change our view of God; our God should change our view of suffering." 
--Jordan Wootten

This quote in our Bible study stood out to me this past week. While our family isn't in a season of suffering now, we certainly have experienced our share of trials in various forms. Lately we've found ourselves walking alongside dear friends who are facing extremely painful circumstances. And even beyond our small circles, we grieve and pray for those facing devastation beyond description such as hurricane damage or war crimes.

The older I get, the more I mourn over the brokenness in this world. It wasn't supposed to be this way. Parents aren't supposed to lose their children. Innocent civilians aren't supposed to be brutally murdered. Places of safety aren't supposed to be upended. And yet here we are, clear evidence of the toll sin has taken on our planet and all the inhabitants thereof, down through the ages. 

Ironically, though, the more I mourn, the more fiercely I cling to true hope and PEACE. The very fact that life isn't supposed to be this way points me to the promise of healing and redemption to come. One day true justice will be administered; one day every tear will be wiped away. At that time, "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Phil. 2:11

Another verse from our study in Romans is appropriate to ponder here: "Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" Rom. 2:4

"The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

"Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him." 2 Peter 3:15

**Study referenced: RightNow Presents The Book of Romans: Part 1 STUDY GUIDE
Copyright © 2022 RightNow by RightNow Ministries
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Truth or Toxicity? Part 1

Truth or Toxicity? Part 1
The Facebook ad caught my eye with its reference to "religious toxicity." The lengthy prose spoke in soothing tones, validating the feelings of those who have been hurt by the church, religious people, and/or specific religious doctrines. The author, an ex-Baptist preacher, offers his course on trauma-informed care to counselors who wish to serve people who have experienced religious trauma. The comments on this sponsored ad were both revealing and cynical...but most of all, heartbreaking.

I can't adequately explore every branch of thought that sprouts from the main trunk of Religious Trauma. It's difficult enough to put my own response into words, let alone dissect the ideas of other learned folks who have probably spent years researching and writing about this topic.

But I DO have thoughts stemming from my own foundation of Truth, the Word of God. And I offer them here because I think it's important to separate the wheat from the chaff, facts from feelings, and yes, lies from truth. Let's start with this first point...

1. Not all who claim to represent Christ do so with His blessing.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" - Matthew 7:21-23

It's tragedy that defies words, the abuses that have been inflicted upon the innocent under the guise of spiritual leadership. Recent exposés include failures of individuals (such as Ravi Zacharias) and denominations (such as Southern Baptists and Catholics). And sadly, these egregious wrongs surely go back through time and across continents and cultures. 

Make no mistake--these ARE wrongs, abuses, exploitation. In a word, SIN. And there is NO excuse for it. NONE. Not for the perpetrators, and not for those who covered it up. WOE to those who cause such suffering! (See Matthew 18:1-9.)

But here's the question: do these evildoers and their actions negate the truth that God exists? Are we forced, because of their toxic actions, to conclude that anything having to do with religion/spirituality is therefore toxic as well, simply because the evildoers claimed some kind of religiosity? 

I say no. I believe we can--and should--condemn those who do wrong (especially when they claim to have some kind of moral authority) while still believing in a loving, just, all-powerful God. 

The very fact that we define abuse and exploitation of the innocent as EVIL is, in itself, a moral judgment that (to me at least) indicates there IS an absolute standard of right and wrong!

So then, a practical (and biblical) response to a person who has experienced heartbreaking abuse by someone in a position of religious power and authority:

Love.
Compassion.
Listening without judgment.
Understanding (as much as possible) the pain and trauma he or she has undergone.
Helping the person find help and healing.
And...if it has not yet been done...telling the proper authorities about the abuse so as to hold the abuser accountable for his or her actions.

This is a start. I hope to share more thoughts in a follow-up post to this one.

Thanks for reading along with me as I process some of my own thoughts about this complex issue. I'd love to hear your thoughts as well; leave a comment or send me a message if this is something that you've thought about or experienced.
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