Summer Challenge Facebook Group

Several years ago, a friend and I decided that, as young moms, with busy husbands, and ministry commitments, we wanted to make sure that our time with the Lord wasn’t getting overlooked in the chaos that was our everyday lives. We both realized that, for us, this was going to mean getting up early. Neither of us were really what you might call “morning people,” so, we decided we were going to need help. So we took turns calling each other, each morning to make sure the other was out of bed. While the desire to ensure that I had some time in the Word and in prayer before my daughter was up and ready to go for the day was certainly there…there were definitely mornings when the promise (threat?) of her phone call would propel me out of bed, when I might have otherwise decided to slack off, sleep in, and put it off until I got around to it…”later.” Sometimes I was the one making the wake up call. And, not wanting to let my friend down was also a strong catalyst to get myself going when my alarm went off. Neither of us wanted to be the one who was still sleeping when that accountability call came in! Now, we were young moms, and even though we each only had one child at the time, there were some mornings that truly did call for a little extra sleep (illness, teething, bad dreams…sometimes that’s just how it is). But, we still made sure to ask about what the other had read, or learned later on in the day. And, we prayed for one another. Consistently.

It’s easy to start out strong, and enthusiastic. But, eventually, the newness wears off, and having someone else to encourage you (or push you) along, when you feel like sleeping in…when “life” begins to get in the way of your new commitment…when other activities look easier, or at least more enjoyable.

That is the purpose of this Facebook group. Consider this group your virtual wake-up call. We will check in regularly. Expect to be asked where you are, or how you are doing in your challenge. We can encourage one another to keep going when we would rather give up. We can pray for one another when we are discouraged, or behind, or not seeing any real progress. And, we can rejoice with each other as we see these ventures to completion, and see the fruit of challenging and stretching ourselves to grow spiritually!

While each of these challenges are personal, and are being undertaken for a variety of reasons, we are not designed to live our spiritual lives independently of one another.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2: 1-4 (ESV)

As promised, I have created a Facebook Group for this challenge. Join us here:

Summer Challenge Facebook Group

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If you would like, share the challenge, and invite others to join as well!

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Filed under Biblical Womanhood, Life in Ministry, Marriage, Mommyhood, Pastor's Wife, Summer Challenge, Thinking Biblically

A Summer Challenge

Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial start of summer. Even if we technically still have a few weeks before summer starts, it already feels like summer here, with temperatures (and humidity!) reaching well into the 90’s.

As the weather warms up, school lets out (yes, even for homeschoolers!), ministries, and other activities often slow down, or take a break. But, summer can still be busy (maybe even busier than the school year!). This summer, our family is looking forward to (multiple) homeschool conventions, 2 weddings, Bible studies, fellowships, and a church family picnic…and that’s just in the next few weeks! But, even with the busyness that it can bring, summer affords many people a change of pace from their regular schedules and routines for a little while.

3 months. Or, 12 weeks. Or, 90 days. (Well, 92 days, to be exact.)

Ask any student (or teacher), and they will probably tell you that 3 months is not a very long time. But, I have heard it said that it only takes 30 days to create a habit. If that is the case, just imagine what you could do with 90 days!

What would happen if you committed yourself to focus on something, some area of personal enrichment for those 90 days? What would it be? Maybe a sugar fast, a new workout routine, practicing (or learning) an instrument, or reading a classic work of literature? You would probably see some pretty amazing results in your physical health, your appearance, your ability, or your academic knowledge.

And, all of those things are great. But…

“…for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” ~1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)

But, what if, instead of (or at the very least, in addition to) a pursuit that really only holds value in this life, you spent the next three months committed to working something that will also “hold promise in the life to come”? Can you imagine the change that you would see…in your own relationship with the Lord, your knowledge of Scripture, your prayer life…in your marriage, your family, your relationships with your children…in your church?!

So, here is my challenge to you… Prayerfully consider, and choose one area of spiritual growth to focus on this summer, for the next 3 months. It can be anything…any area you want to work on, or grow in… The only restriction is that it must be something that pertains to your spiritual life.

But if you need ideas, here are a few to get you started:

  • Do an in depth study of a book of the Bible (or study a specific passage, topic, or word)
  • Read a commentary
  • Memorize Scripture
    • If you’re new to memorization, Janet Pope’s book, His Word in My Heart, would be a great place to start…Then, pick one verse to memorize each week (Check out Fighter Verses). And, one verse a week is only 12 verses.
    • Or, make it a little more of a challenge, and memorize a chapter, or a whole book.
      – Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude are only one chapter.
      – 2 Thessalonians, Titus, and 2 Peter are only 3 chapters…that’s only one chapter a month!
  • Read the entire Bible. (Yes. Really.)
    • Several years ago, I used this plan to read through the entire Bible in one summer. It was a little like sprinting through a marathon…but, well worth it. (You know, using this plan, you could theoretically read through the entire Bible 4 times a year!)
  • Study an area of Doctrine or Theology:
    • Calvinism vs. Arminianism
    • Covenantal vs. Dispensational
    • End Times
    • Baptism
    • Spiritual Gifts
    • The Attributes of God
  • Read the biography of a great hero of the faith.
    • J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, by Iain Murray
    • A Chance to Die, by Elisabeth Elliot
    • My Heart in His Hands: Ann Judson of Burma, by Sharon James
    • Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas
    • Newton on the Christian Life, by Tony Reinke
    • Feminine Threads, by Diana Severance
  • Read a classic spiritual work:
    • Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
    • Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin
    • The Existence and Attributes of God, by Stephen Charnock
    • Religious Affections, by Jonathan Edwards
    • The Christian in Complete Armour, by William Gurnall (There are 3 volumes…maybe try to read one a month?)
    • Holiness, by J.C. Ryle
  • Read a book that will challenge and stretch you in your spiritual walk:
    • The Joy of the Word-Filled Family, by John Barnett
    • Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung
    • Missional Motherhood, by Gloria Furman
    • Hospitality, by Pat Ennis
    • Slave, by John MacArthur
    • Humility, by CJ Mahaney
    • Future Grace, by John Piper
    • The Race Set Before Us, by Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday (This is a very theological book. If it seems a bit too daunting, Run to Win the Prize is a shorter, more user-friendly version, also by Thomas Schreiner.)
    • The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, by John and Janie Street
  • Commit to doing (or, maybe first, starting?) family devotions.
  • Commit to regular, consistent church attendance. (Yes. Even in the summer.)
  • Commit yourself to a time of daily, consistent prayer…for your marriage, your children, your church, your country…
    • If this is a discipline that you have struggled with, again, start small. Start with 5 minutes a day. Add 5 minutes each week…and after 12 weeks, by the end of the summer, you will find yourself praying for a whole hour!

Now, some of these ideas are definitely a little bit more ambitious than others. Remember, the intent is not to try to accomplish the same thing as someone else. The purpose is your spiritual growth, and change. This isn’t a competition. There is no one to impress. That’s not the point.

Start small if you need to, that’s okay. Most runners don’t start with a marathon. Weight lifters don’t bench press 500 pounds on their first try. But, at the same time, make it a challenge. Stretch yourself. Push a little bit beyond your comfort zone.

This might mean giving something up. It might mean cutting back on “more fun” activities. Maybe it will mean putting down your phone. Maybe it will necessitate turning off the TV (or Netflix). It might mean disciplining yourself to get up earlier, or to go to bed later to allow time for whatever you have chosen.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” ~Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

Over the next few days, take some time to consider, and pray about an area in your spiritual life where you need to grow, or to be challenged. And, let’s make the best use of the time we have been given this summer!

***

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” ~Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

Because these types of endeavors start with all sorts of enthusiasm and good intentions, and often fizzle out partway through (New Year’s Resolutions, anyone?), let’s also commit to hold each other accountable, and encourage one another in this.

Stay tuned for details…and a Facebook group devoted to this purpose!

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Resurrection Sunday 2018

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For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
1 Corinthians 15:16-19 (ESV)Resurrection Sunday collage

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“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:4-6

IMG_8866_wmBut in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 (ESV)IMG_8096_wm{Our Family – Resurrection Sunday 2018}

We serve a risen Savior!

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Listen.

Over the past several years, I have noticed a trend of choosing a “word of the year.” This seems to be the new New Year’s Resolution. A mantra, of sorts, to inspire change, growth, or simplicity (all common words-of-the-year, by the way) in the upcoming year.

I have shied away from this particular blogging/social media trend, because it has always seemed to be just a little too close to “name it and claim it” territory for my comfort.

Until this year.

It was quite unintentional, I assure you. And, as I have actively, and quite intentionally avoided this particular blogging/social media trend, I figure it is only appropriate that I am also bucking the common practice of declaring my word at the beginning of the year…

Last Christmas, my husband gave me The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women. And, as the Lord often does, it was exactly what I needed to read…starting in the very first chapter!

The chapter was on Anger. And, while I do not typically think of myself as an angry person (oh, I have my moments!), maybe it would be better to say that I do not like to think of myself as an angry person. But, it wasn’t the specific topic of anger that resonated with me. It was the idea of listening.

John and Janie Street explained it this way:

“Listening is hard to do when you’re angry, because true listening involves submission. This requires a silent, inward confession that your demands and anger are not right and that you need the correction and help of another. This is not listening for some audible voice from God, because He has already communicated to you everything you need in His Word. When you try to hear an audible voice, you betray your lack of trust in the sufficiency of His Word (2 Peter 1:3, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Instead, listen to God through the truth of His Word – the Bible. … But, you must not stop with just listening. To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak.” (The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, pgs. 31-32, bold mine)

My family talks…a lot. I think it was a bit unnerving for my husband when we started dating. Family dinners were loud. Words flew at a furious pace. Good-natured arguments and friendly debates were common. We interrupted, and talked over one another. Sentences often overlapped. Thoughts were often left incomplete. None of it was done maliciously, or with the intention of being rude or inconsiderate. That’s just how we communicated.

It was the polar opposite of his family’s way of doing things. His family was quiet. Conversations were slow and deliberate. They waited for someone to finish a thought (maybe a sentence, maybe an entire paragraph) before chiming in. And, the general pace of conversation was much slower.

So, early on in our marriage, my husband frequently pointed out my propensity to interrupt him. Honestly, I dismissed his observation, and his rebukes. I wasn’t doing it to be rude. I was doing it out of habit.

But, it bothered him.

And, the truth is, it was inconsiderate. It was rude. It was disrespectful.

And, if “true listening involves submission,” this was an obvious lack of submission on my part.

Instead of listening to him, to his perspective, and his opinions…I would cut him off, or talk over him, in order to share my opinions, and defend myself and my perspective…again. And, I am not only talking in the context of disagreements, although those types of conversations would definitely fall into this category. Sadly, I am mostly talking about normal, everyday communication.

“Speaking when you should be listening only interrupts the valuable insight that you are lacking.” (The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, pg. 32)

To say I have been a slow learner in this area would be a gross understatement. I am embarrassed to say that we had been married almost 15 years…and I was only just beginning to recognize the enormity of my problem in this area. And, as I began to realize the years of wisdom and valuable insights I had missed out on (both from him, and from others), by insisting on speaking, when I should have been listening…I finally wanted to take his concern seriously.

Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (ESV)

And, James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (ESV)

There is no sugar-coating it. Scripture calls an over-abundance of words, and the speed with which we rush to verbalize them, sin.

So, I took those verses as my starting point for this past year. Even though I had read them numerous times, I began to meditate on them, daily. And, I made it my goal to prayerfully apply them in every single conversation and interaction that I had…with my husband, with my children, with the people in my church, and online.

To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak. This became my motto (not mantra!) for this last year.

Did I do it perfectly? No. I think, this side of Heaven, it will always be a struggle.

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” James 3:3 (ESV)

In his sermon on Taming the Tongue, John MacArthur says,

“if I want to focus my Christian life on one thing, if I want to get my act together, if I want to bring my whole spiritual life into control, I ought to work on my what?  My tongue.  Well, now we realize that it’s not fully possible to totally have a holy tongue, but to the extent that one controls his tongue, he will control his body.  Why?  Because whatever spiritual dynamics work to control your tongue will therefore work to control the rest of you. But it makes it so simple and so dynamic if we can just concentrate on the tongue.  Isn’t that practical?  I mean, just get it down to that. Focus on your mouth. And if the Holy Spirit gets control of the most volatile and the most potent member, the rest will be subdued.” (Taming the Tongue, part 1)

And, over the course of the year, I found that I could sum up my goal in one simple word:

Listen.

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” James 1:26 (ESV)

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Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime!

…this baby made the angels sing,
And this baby made a new star shine in the sky.
This baby had come to change the world.
This baby was God’s own son, this baby was like no other one.
This baby was God with us, this baby was Jesus.
~Steven Curtis Chapman, This Baby

 ***

It’s no secret. I love Christmas! I took hundreds of pictures in 48 hours! Even though I am already enjoying looking back on them, and reliving the special moments, don’t worry. I won’t subject you to all of them. But, here is just a little glimpse into our family Christmas Celebrations…

Yes, celebrations. Plural. We kind of like to celebrate.

We started with a lovely Christmas Eve service with our dear church family. (Yes. We consider them family…because, they are!)

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Later, that afternoon, Jason’s parents (known to the kids as Grammy and Grampy) came over for dinner and presents! Although I spent a good portion of the 23rd cooking, in preparation for our meal, in the many pictures I took, not one is of our Christmas dinner. Oh well. Next year. Maybe.

Grammy and Grampy picked out some fun things for the Stockings that they gave the kids. Duck masks, finger lights, candy, stamps and stamp pads, stickers, light up tops, chapstick, and fun characters… I almost think the kids would have been perfectly satisfied to end the gift opening there… Almost.

2017-12-24There were Lots of Legos: Police, Lego Friends, and American Girl. Rebekah was so excited when she opened her very own American Girl “legos”. Rachel got a broom, mop, and duster. And, I am going to have the cleanest house in town if this little girl gets her way! Titus has been begging for a real watch for weeks. He couldn’t have been more excited to get a Spider-Man watch! (Unfortunately, the battery died shortly after he opened it…and he cannot wait until we can get it fixed so he can tell time.)  And, Hannah got a digital camera! You all think I take a lot of pictures? I have competition! I think she might have taken as many pictures as I did during our Christmas celebrations!

***

Christmas Morning is our family celebration.

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{Christmas Morning}

Even though we don’t “do” the Santa thing, I always wait until after the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve to put any gifts under the tree. So, I always love seeing their faces light up when they come downstairs and see what “appeared” overnight!

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Stockings are always first… I had so much fun finding stocking stuffers this year. I may have gone a little overboard, as it was difficult to fit everything in. (And we do not have small stockings!!)

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We took a break between the stockings and the presents for breakfast. For the past several years I’ve been looking for alternatives to the easy make-ahead, overnight casseroles that I used to make. (Titus is allergic to eggs, so anything egg-based is out.) Biscuits have become our standard “special occasion” breakfast. It isn’t fancy, but, since it isn’t something we have very often, the kids love them! Jason’s dad sent us a gift of cinnamon rolls, so I added those to our morning menu at the last minute, as a special treat!

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I know that Christmas isn’t about the gifts. But, I love to find special items for my family…and I love to see the joy on my children’s (and husband’s) faces when they open up a fun surprise, or something that they have wanted…

2017-12-25One of the things I love most about our Christmas morning is how the kids take their time opening gifts. We take turns…watching each person. They pause, and look at each present…stopping to read books, carefully examining each toy, or even trying on clothing…before moving on to the next gift. And, there were many smiles, squeals, and hugs.

IMG_7272wmThis was my favorite moment of the day!
It just so perfectly captured what I imagine when I think of Christmas Morning.

Because we had enjoyed our “fancy” meal the day before, the rest of the day was very relaxed. Everyone got to enjoy their new toys and books. And, the dining room and coffee table were Lego construction zones!!

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Later in the afternoon, Grandma and Boppy came over!

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I had some very excited kids… Grandma and Boppy found some fun play food for the play kitchen. We enjoyed an assortment of sandwiches, hamburgers, fruit, and played “guess the ingredients” with our little chefs. In keeping with the cleaning theme, Rachel got a vacuum cleaner! I am not exaggerating when I say this girl loves doing housework with me. Titus got 2 3-in-1 Lego sets…one was a truck, a rocket, and an airplane. The other had a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Triceratops, and a Pterodactyl. He could not decide which dinosaur to build first! Hannah spent the time looking way too grown up…especially opening gifts from Bath and Body Works. But, I love that she still squealed like a little girl when she got a barn for her horses. And, Grandma and Boppy found some fun blankets for the kids. The girls each got a Mermaid-Tail, in their favorite color (pink for Rachel, Aqua for Hannah, and Purple for Rebekah). And Titus got a Shark-Tail!

26026006_10215158027325221_1589805862387084074_owmMy cozy Mermaids and Shark Boy enjoying A Charlie Brown Christmas before bed.

We really did have a wonderful Christmas this year. I hope you all did too!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a Good Night!

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