My prayer for today:

Lord, I want to be changed! I don’t want to live like this world lives, but I want to live like Jesus did. I invite your Holy Spirit to dwell and work within me, and change me from the inside out.

Please don’t let me cave into the pressure to be a woman of this world. Don’t allow me to think it’s OK to listen to certain music, watch certain movies, use inappropriate language, or develop habits that do not align with the principles you call us to live out just because that’s what others are doing.

Help me to be encouraged by the friends I trust who are also seeking to live a life led by you, but ultimately, let your words be the words I live by, and not the words of others.

I don’t want to look, walk, talk, or act like the norm in this world. I want my words and actions to set me apart and point the world to You.

I love you and thank you for this beautiful life! Amen.

Inspired by the song Different by Micah Tyler

Keep Your Eye On The Couch Pillows

Keep Your Eye On The Couch Pillows

“DON’T EAT THE CARPET!” I yelled, as I dove over the kitchen chair barrier I’d created to keep my now-crawling daughter within the confines of the living room.

I pried her mouth open as she flailed her extremities in every direction. In one fluid swipe my glasses were removed from my face and landed just out of reach. “Blind your opponent- impressive strategy for a 10-month-old,” I thought. Nevertheless I was able to reach into her tiny little chipmunk-like cheeks between blows and retrieve the stray strand of carpet.

Our living room is currently its own special work of art. With an open concept floorplan there is little to keep my curious baby herded within the pasture of our living space. So, from necessity, I’ve designed a very chic arrangement consisting of a side-lying kitchen chair, furniture pressed up against each other, a laundry basket filled with hopeless, matchless socks, and a portable playpen.

I’m not sure why I haven’t been contacted by Better Homes and Gardens yet, really. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

Now while much of our home boasts newer flooring thanks to the previous owner, our living room carpet has certainly seen its better days in the decades since our house was built. Charlie, our lazy yellow lab, must agree. Wherever he decides to lay, he paws at the carpet to make for a softer napping spot, and occasionally strands from the carpet are pulled loose. My eagle-eyed munchkin sometimes finds these small pieces before I do.

Feeling the frustration, I thought, “I’ll get ahead of this.” I grabbed a pair of scissors and went around extracting any little strand that looked as if it may come loose at Charlie’s pawing. Then, feeling accomplished, I returned my daughter to her designer play area.

A short time later I made a quick trip to the next room, only to return to find her squirreling away couch pillow stuffings in her tiny baby cheeks.

(Friends. Remember me in your prayers.)

As moms we know that we can’t take our eyes off of these sweet little sneaks for a second. The moment we start patting ourselves on the back for conquering the trials of one milestone, they’re already onto the next. In the midst of trying to keep up with my daughter this week, I came across a verse that pointedly reminded me that we can’t take our eyes off of our enemy either:

“When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.” -Luke 4:13 NLT

That’s right- He. Never. Stops.

Even as we celebrate the moments when we find the strength to walk away from a carefully crafted temptation, or choose differently rather than going back to a bad habit, he is already scouting out the next opportunity to knock us down. He is constantly working- so that means that we need to be, too.

In light of this, I’ve got to ask you what I’ve been asking myself this week: How can you be more persistent?Β 

Is it waking up earlier to get into the Word before your day sets your priorities for you? Grabbing your Bible or devotional as soon as the kids go to sleep instead of the remote? Deleting an app off your phone that- let’s be real here- the enemy is using to distract you from devoting more time to God?

The bottom line is this: our purpose in life is to love God and love people. It’s so simple, but the enemy is persistent and effective in making it complicated. We have to hold onto the truths of the Word in order to be prepared for every opportunity to love, so that there is less opportunity for the enemy to take the lead.

The 5 Stages of Sleep Deprivation (& Keeping the Faith)

The 5 Stages of Sleep Deprivation (& Keeping the Faith)

It recently occurred to me in the late hours of the night that sleep deprivation is very closely related to the 5 Stages of Grief.

I know. It sounds pretty dramatic. But have you ever tried to wrestle an alligator at 4 A.M.?

Well it goes like this:

  1. DENIAL. There’s a screech coming from the room where your baby sleeps. Your eyes pop open. It’s been approximately 27 minutes since you laid down your head on that fancy memory foam pillow you were sure would help you sleep. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” You think to yourself. “She can’t seriously be awake right now. Maybe she’ll fall back asleep on her own…” But alas! She does not, in fact, (ever) fall back asleep on her own.
  2. ANGER. I can’t function on 27 minutes of sleep!” You lament to your helpless baby. “Are you a robot?! Who replaced my tiny precious baby with a battery operated robot?!” You begin to furiously unwind government baby swapping conspiracy theories in your head.
  3. BARGAINING. “If you just go to sleep I will make Daddy buy you a pony,” you coo in your sweetest mommy voice. “Yes I will, you tiny princess, you can have WHATEVER you want- we will have chocolate cake for breakfast!” You rock and cuddle and negotiate, but nevertheless your tactics prove futile.
  4. DEPRESSION. Now here’s where things really take a turn. It’s around that 2-3:00 A.M. hour and you start getting philosophical. You begin to ask yourself… “What is sleep? On what plane of existence can it really even be found, and how does one get there? Why was I made a mother, and how can I ever reach my full child rearing potential if I am devoid of any source of energy?” All hope seems lost. And then, finally…….
  5. ACCEPTANCE.“Okay,” you declare to yourself, mustering what little strength you’ve gathered from your second wind. “I can do this. I’ll just bump up my caffeine intake tomorrow, it’s fine. I’ll be done with coffee by 3 P.M. so it won’t affect bedtime milk. I don’t need sleep. Sleep is for the weak! It’s 4:00am let’s just start the day!”

We’ve all been there. I certainly cycle through these stages in my mom life during seasons when my 10-month-old decides she’s got no need for a full night of sleep. But if I’m being honest, there are times I cycle through these stages in my Christian life as well.

Sometimes DENIAL comes in the form of a pursuit for control over my circumstances, convincing myself that I can take on a situation by myself without needing to seek counsel with my Father first.

Sometimes ANGER comes when the illusion of control slips away and I realize things aren’t going the way I’d planned.

Sometimes I experience the temptation to BARGAIN– to say “God if you get me through this I’m going to do it differently next time- I promise I’ve learned..”

Sometimes DEPRESSION strikes when I lose my focus on things above and get too fixated with the priorities of this world.

But after it all, when God picks me up to dust me off and make me better than he found me, I step into ACCEPTANCE and realize that I need him. I desperately, honestly, truly need him.

I don’t know where you are in the stages of your walk with God, (or the stages of sleep deprivation thanks to those little energy-depleting miracles we love so much.) But rest assured- you’re certainly not the only one there. Just as we enter into a sisterhood when we become mothers, we do the same when we accept God into our lives. We become a part of a whole big family of people who are living the same triumphs and trials that we are.

So in case you need to hear it from a sister today, it’s okay to be in that cycle.

But wherever you are, whether you’re pouring that second cup of coffee and happily declaring your need for your Father, or you’re bargaining with a toddler over mismatching socks at 3 o’clock in the morning, know that you can find your strength in the One who has already overcome the world! Don’t be afraid to share your struggle with your Father in Heaven and with your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to seek encouragement through it all. In all circumstances, you have an awesome support system!

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

Hello, My Name Is:

Hello, My Name Is:

Everyone who knows me in 2018 calls me Jess.

But family members who watched me grow up call me Jessie. My dad, who loves to embarrass me, calls me Bessie, Messy Jessie, or (frequently) mistakenly addresses me by one of my brothers’ names. My kids call me mom, my husband calls me babe, and the state of Indiana calls me Jessica, RN.

But what does God call me?

In a lifetime any one of us will go by so many different names. Some are given to us, some we choose, but by far and large the world around us gives us most of our titles. Society is always quick to categorize us, and by the time we make it to adulthood we are stamped with so many different labels it’s easy to lose sight of the truth underneath of them. What’s more, as we navigate our successes and failures, we tend to give ourselves a few names:

“I’m just outspoken. I’m an introvert. I’m not good enough to do that. I’m better than everyone else here. I’m unloved, unwanted. I’m independent, and above asking for help. I’m strong, weak, needy, greedy, selfish, selfless….”

Fill in the blank as it applies to you.

But as our preacher gently reminded us recently at church,

“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7

God sees past our worldly titles, and he has something to say about it.

In her book The Armor of God, Priscilla Shirer shared an incredible list of names that God has given us, and descriptions of our inherent, unchanging identity.

God says that we are….

  • Children of God (John 1:12)
  • Not condemned by God (Romans 8:1)
  • Completely forgiven (Col. 1:14)
  • A temple in which God dwells (1 Cor. 3:16)
  • Chosen by God, holy and dearly loved (Col. 3:12)
  • Complete in Christ (Col. 2:10)
  • God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10)

Just to name a few.

Now let’s remember something really unique about God:

He tells the truth. And he tells nothing but the truth.

So if God’s word is truth, and God’s word says that we are holy, complete, dearly loved, completely forgiven……that means that we can believe it. Because guess what? God’s truth doesn’t change according to our feelings. Just because we are in a place where we don’t feel holy and loved, does not mean that it isn’t true! And we don’t get to pick and choose the parts of our identity from the Bible that we think apply to us- they all do. So read through some more of these truths, friends, and know that every single one of them applies to YOU!

  • I have peace with God (Romans 5:1)
  • The Holy Spirit lives in me (1 Cor. 3:16)
  • I have access to God’s wisdom (Jas. 1:5)
  • I am helped by God (Hebrews 4:16)
  • I am reconciled to God (Romans 5:11)
  • I am justified (Romans 5:1)
  • I have Christ’s righteousness (Romans 5:19)
  • I am Christ’s ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20)
  • I am tenderly loved by God (Jer. 31:3)
  • I am the sweet fragrance of Christ to God (2 Cor. 2:15)
  • I am blameless and beyond reproach (Col. 1:22)
  • I am the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13)
  • I am the light of the world (Matt. 5:14)
  • I am a branch on Christ’s vine (John 15:1,5)
  • I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
  • I am chosen by Christ to bear fruit (John 15:16)
  • I am a joint heir with Christ, sharing his inheritance with him (Rom. 8:17)
  • I am united to the Lord, one spirit with him (1 Cor. 6:17)
  • I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:27)
  • I am a saint (Eph. 1:1)
  • I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3)
  • I am a child of the light (1 Thess. 5:5)
  • I am holy, and I share in God’s heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1)
  • I am sanctified (Heb. 2:11)
  • I am one of God’s living stones,being built up in Christ as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5)
  • I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession and created to sing his praises (1 Peter 2:9-10)
  • I am firmly rooted and built up in Christ (Col. 2:7)
  • I am born of God, and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)
  • I have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16)
  • I may approach God with boldness, freedom, and confidence (Eph. 3:12)
  • I have been rescued from Satan’s domain and transferred into the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13)
  • I have been given a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7)
  • I have been given great and precious promises by God (2 Peter 1:4)
  • My needs are met by God (Phil. 4:19)
  • I am a prince (princess) in God’s kingdom (John 1:12; 1 Tim. 6:15)
  • I have been bought with a price, and I belong to God (1 Cor. 6:19,20)
  • I have been adopted as God’s child (Eph. 1:5)
  • I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:18)
  • I am assured that all things are working together for good (Rom. 8:28)
  • I am free from any condemning charges against me (Rom. 8:31)
  • I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom. 8:35)
  • I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God (2 Cor. 1:21,22)
  • I am confident that the good work that God has begun in me will be perfected (Phil. 1:6)
  • I am a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20)
  • I am a personal witness of Christ’s (Acts 1:8)
  • I am God’s coworker (2 Cor. 6:1; 1 Cor. 3:9)
  • I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm (Eph. 2:6)
  • I can do all things through Christ, who gives me the strength I need (Phil. 4:13)

(-The Armor of God, by Priscilla Shirer)

Donut Thief

Donut Thief

Have you ever sat down with a donut and counted the seconds until your children come running at you to steal your new treasure?

(Probably not, right? Because we’re smart enough to hide in our closets or cars while we indulge in that sort of luxury…. πŸ’πŸ») BUT if you have, you know what it’s like to grasp at something wonderful and watch it walk away in pieces in the hands of someone else.

Well sometimes my peace is like a donut.

When I started my current Bible study with a small group of wonderful women, it was mentioned that we ought to be on guard for the enemy trying to work harder in our lives when he sees the progress we’re making. Y’all it’s real. He KNOWS when we’re getting closer to God and he wants to steal our “donuts” of peace, faith, courage, truth, motivation, and anything else he sees us enjoying as a benefit of relation with our Creator.

His favorite place to get us is in our thoughts- especially the ones we’re not paying very much attention to that like to run away from us. I’ve personally noticed the struggle in this area- and even in my dreams!

The other night I had terrible dreams and when I woke up I realized- he’s messing with me. So I prayed and prayed, and finally went back to sleep. The next night I was anxious at remembering the fear I’d felt the night before and I spent a long time in prayer. When I finally laid down it was nearly 1:00am and I opened up my Bible app to read the new Verse of the Day as it had just changed over. This is what it said:

God listens!! How amazing is it that at one o’clock in the morning while little old me is laying in bed STRESSING, the divine God of Heaven and Earth is listening to the drama flooding my mind??

We all have our own ideas of who God is and what he’s like but it’s wonderful to remember that he’s also our father. He listens to the little things, he tucks us in at night, and he takes the “donut” of peace out of the hands of the bully trying to steal it away and gives it right back to us.

So guys, I realize that I just likened my children stealing my food to the devil stealing my peace but I know you get it…. And I know you all know I love my littles!! πŸ˜‚πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ Just remember that we- YOU- are loved by a God who wants good things for you- who hears you, sees you, and looks after you in all aspects. And if that isn’t enough, if we’re still needing the sprinkles on top, sometimes he bends down and speaks directly to us.

Whatever your fear or worry is- take it to your father. He listens- and speaks!

Life Comes With Instructions

Life Comes With Instructions

I was raised on a firm principle: instructions are for sissies.

At least that much was implied on one occasion I recall as a girl when I received a laugh in return after trying to hand my dad the manual for whatever it was he’d just bought. I’ve even found myself repeating that notion through the years, and in case you’re wondering how well that’s worked for me, allow me to share a Proverb my grandma likes to use from time to time:

“Pride cometh before the fall.”

Grandma raised five boys. Grandma knows.

But as much as I’d like to jump right into things, I like having instructions. I NEED instructions. And you know who gives the best instructions of all? Our all knowing, more than gracious God. Sometimes I can just imagine him up there shaking his head at me in dismay when he sees me trying to do things my own way, and he probably gets a good laugh or two. But none the less when I go looking for wisdom it’s always right there in the word.

That’s why I love the scripture that I shared yesterday so much:

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” -Isaiah 26:3

First and foremost, I love this because God is giving us an awesome gift- I mean who doesn’t like getting gifts? And it’s GOOD. He is not giving us contentment or complacency, but his own perfect peace. The peace he promises is not some distant fairytale that we have to go chasing, or something we have to earn and figure out on our own- it’s very real and it is attainable! And not only is it available to us, but right there in the very same verse we are given instructions and told exactly how to attain it- through trusting God and fixing our thoughts on him.

Now that’s great and all.. but what do we do with that? How do we turn that into action and start experiencing his perfect peace?

Have you ever caught your thoughts spiraling? Maybe going from “I wonder if I unplugged my straightener….” to “WHAT IF I COME HOME TO A PILE OF ASH AND MY POOR FUR CHILDREN ARE STUCK IN THE HOUSE WHEN IT GOES AND I’M ONLY LEFT WITH THE CLOTHES ON MY BACK” in about 0.2 seconds? πŸ™‹πŸ» There is a simple- not easy, but simple- strategy I’ve learned to stop this in its tracks. When you catch yourself fixated on unproductive, ungodly thoughts, stop and turn your runaway thoughts into gratitude. You see, being grateful has this magical power that turns our fears into focus on God, and grants us that perfect peace that he is trying to give to us.

Instructions: they can turn a nice sentiment into a powerful testament. And thankfully for us, our God has given us the best instruction manual ever created.