By Carrie Roden

 

 

View More: http://karenhalbertphotography.pass.us/roden2015There is a lot of “new” in my life right now. My husband has a new job, we are in a new church, we live in a new house, my kids have new schools, and we are making new friends. New doctors, new dentists, new routines. And for whatever reason, I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about how I’m handling all this “new.” Because fundamentally, I’m a pretty introverted person, and sometimes new is unsettling to me. And the fact that each and every time I leave my house, I meet someone new and wind up sharing some part of our story. That would typically drain me, but I am finding that I am at peace with all the new in my life, and I’m even enjoying the process of making our life here.

 

I think there are probably a couple of reasons why that’s true, and one is the amazing support system that I have of both family and a half-a-dozen close friends who have truly lavished love on me and created such a safe place for me that I have come into all the “new” with the confidence that comes from having been loved so very well. I could write a book about my people. But the bottom line is I have done nothing to deserve them, and the only appropriate response to having them is gratitude – to both them and to my heavenly Father who gave them to me.

 

But the other reason I think I’m embracing all the “new” is that I am choosing to begin this chapter of our lives telling the truth about who I am. I’m attempting to reveal only the person that God created me to be. Not who someone expects me to be or wishes I was.

 

See, we left a place where people had known me for years, some since I was six years old. I often lived in response to other people’s expectations of me, some based on who I was as a young girl, some based on who they believed I should have grown into. Sometimes I tried to meet those expectations and sometimes I tried to explain why I couldn’t meet them. But either way, living in light of them often left me exhausted and lonely. How ironic to feel lonely in a place where people have known you all your life.

 

I knew that as we began a new chapter of our lives that this was something that needed to change. And I also knew that could be tricky because being a family in ministry often comes with a slew of unrealistic expectations. But one of the things that led Matt and I to believe that Grace Family Church was where God was calling us was the authenticity of the leadership.

 

From our first dinner with the Altmans and the Bonhams, we felt like we could be ourselves. We didn’t feel like we had to sugarcoat how difficult our past year had been or pretend that we hadn’t faced some very real doubts and struggles. We didn’t feel like we had to portray our marriage as perfect and act like we always finish each other’s sentences and laugh our way through every day. Because the truth is we love each other deeply, and yes, Matt definitely makes me laugh, but sometimes he also makes me crazy!

 

We didn’t have to pretend to have perfect kids. Because I know our children look precious in pictures, but the truth is revealed by taking one look at me on a Sunday morning: hair about three-quarters dry, mascara applied in the parking lot to eyes that have a distinct crazy look about them because I’ve just wrestled one distraught child into her “too tight” carseat, explained to another distraught child why she can’t bring 72 of her favorite princess dolls with us, half the time having just apologized for nearly traumatizing another over the ever elusive sock or shoe, and always hoping against hope that all of them actually used toothpaste when they brushed their teeth. Trust me, our children are far from perfect, and after getting to know us, no one wonders why!

 

So every day our not-so-perfect family is building new relationships trying our best to let our crazy show just a little bit at a time, and we are thankful to be in a place where we feel safe to do that. After months of “brand new” every day, here is what I’ve already learned: living in response to others expectations will leave you drained and lonely, and that is not how God created us to live. Here is what I’m still learning: knowing who God created you to be – who you are in Christ – and not being afraid to tell the truth about who you are is a process which isn’t easy, and, in fact, can be down right terrifying, but one that results in peace, and even joy.

 

“Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace.”  

Galatians 2:20-21 The Message

 

By KrisAnn Snow

 

“As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the

Spirit descending on him like a dove.” Mark 1:10

 

Notice how the Holy Spirit comes upon those whom He loves; gentle, soft, with purity and grace. Like a dove, He determines where He will land with precision and purpose. He does not come at random, but rather, He descends upon the believer at the moment of salvation. He fills you. He embraces you. He covers you. Unlike the rushing of the rapids, the Spirit flows into your life like a smooth stream, bringing with him stillness and peace. Heaven is torn open for you. God Almighty burst through heaven and earth to allow His Spirit to descend upon your soul. He has determined to land in your life, with precision and purpose.

white-mountain-stream-89391-ga

Perhaps today you feel the burdens of this life descending on you like a ton of bricks, heavy and overwhelming. You might struggle to maintain a balance between work, family, yourself, and your time with the Lord. When the world presses in on us, it becomes difficult to feel His presence. Often times we carry loads far heavier than our small souls were intended to bear. Christian, do not let the sin of your life or the sin of this world weigh you down. Loosen your grip. Drop your load. Let our Savior carry them for you. For Jesus says, take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This morning as you read and pray, take some time to be still before the Lord. Ask Jesus to take from you that which weighs you down. Give your cares and concerns to Him. Pray that the Spirit would fill you and refresh you. Walk in the confidence that you have Him in you. The Spirit of the Living God has descended upon you, to empower and enable you.

By Leah Martorana

 

I can honestly say that I love life right now. I’m in one of those rare seasons where everything seems to fall into place and I really can’t find much to complain about.

 

My husband usually travels on a weekly basis but the months of January and February included a lot of time at home.  I realize for most people this is the norm but for us, it was so strange! It brought about some tough conversations… There may have been some yelling, pouting, silent treatment, and otherwise unhealthy behavior involved but we’ve come out on the other side a lot stronger and more aware of each other’s wants and needs.  We’ve found our new normal and we are having fun together!

 

I’m enjoying my two little guys more than words can say. It’s amazing the transformation that takes place after sleepless nights and potty training become distant memories. I am starting the day anxious for new adventures with my boys.  We still have plenty of challenges throughout the day: temper tantrums in public places, accidents at the most inconvenient times, caring for them when they are sick and I am too.  But for the most part, those struggles are fleeting and I feel overwhelmingly blessed that I get to be their mom.

 

I’ve also found the elusive “balance” that seems to be the topic of so many conversations.  My boys go to school three days a week.  Some days I run errands and get caught up around the house.  Other days I have the privilege of meeting a friend for lunch.  This is especially fancy since I typically order things other than PB&J, chicken nuggets, or macaroni. And sometimes I get caught up on work and feel the satisfaction that comes from working hard to achieve a goal.

 

summer-joy-232465

You are probably wondering why I’ve written a blog to tell you about how wonderful my life is.  Valid question.  Don’t get me wrong, life is not perfect by any means. I have my day-to-day struggles just like everyone else.  But I would have to admit that in this season is feeling pretty good.  So what’s the problem??  The problem is there is an underlying feeling I battle and I think if I am struggling with it, some of you may be as well.  I don’t consider myself a pessimist but often times I find myself bracing for the worst.   At times I’m convinced something bad is going to happen simply for the fact that things are so good right now.  Have you been there?

 

I recently had a conversation with a good friend.  She was sharing her heart and voicing some of the same fears.  She paused and I heard my voice say, “Don’t mistake the character of God.  He did not bring good into your life only to snatch it away.”  I hung up the phone and then repeated those words to myself.  Did I really believe that in my heart of hearts? Did I believe it not just for others but also for myself?  Have I really taken the time to learn the character of God?  What does that even mean?

 

Character means personality, disposition, nature, and behavior.  We discover these things about a person by spending time with them. To begin to truly know who God is we have to start at the same place. If God were here in the flesh, how would you pursue relationship with Him?  Would you invite him over for coffee? Would you give Him a call when you had a decision to make? Would you show up at His house when you had news so huge you just felt you would burst if you didn’t share?  Would you read the book He wrote for you?

 

I’m challenging myself to know Him better and better.  I want to have complete freedom to experience joy to the fullest in the best of times.  I want to praise Him for all the blessings in my life without fear of them slipping away.  When the enemy plants an anxious thought in my mind I want to answer it with: “I know my God.”

 

I pray for you constantly,  asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.”  Ephesians 1:16b-17

 

 

 

 

By Misty Umholtz

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

bookbg

If you have not had the pleasure of reading one of Jen’s books before, I think you would thoroughly enjoy this one. She is honest, real, open, funny and spiritual. She makes you feel like a friend, like your crazy quirks are perfectly normal and gives you a license of freedom from the pursuit of perfectionism all at the same time. You will probably laugh out loud while reading or at least have a smile plastered to your face all the way through.

 

Jen is a mother of five children ages ranging preschool- high school and she turned 40 while writing this book. For all the moms of youngins’ out there trying to do it all, be it all and have it all, she offers pearls of wisdom that would be wise to heed to even if you find it hard to believe right now in your season of life. For all the moms of older children, it will be a companion of freedom in declaring yourself free to be you and love you and your own. For all the Grandma’s out there, whether you are young or old, you will probably find validation for what you have already known for a long time now.

 

This book offers Jen’s advice, opinions and thoughts about everything pertaining to life that encompasses a women’s world including fashion, careers, cooking, friends, the church, marriage, pastors, mothering and more with plenty of laughs along the way.

 

Even if you don’t agree with every single word she says, she provides words of enlightenment, freedom  and grace in every chapter.

 

I finished this book feeling like God just gave me a stamp of approval for being who He creUnknown-1ated me to be. I received a hall pass to forego anything that tried to hold me down or make me feel guilty even on all the ‘to do’ lists and ‘should have to’ lists put on myself pertaining to church, the way I mother and the way I live my life. I also felt inspired and challenged to look at the circles God has placed me in and reach out to the mission field He has provided to me without me leaving my own life that I am already living.

 

This book definitely left a mark on me without the feeling of having to do anything to fix myself. If you are pondering what to read next, this one gets a huge thumbs up.