Five Questions that Simplify Life

Ever feel like you’re just treading water?

Like you’re supposed to be swimming upstream, but all you can do is keep your head above the surface?

I was behind on laundry, dishes, and dusting. The fridge was filled with food that needed to be pitched, and my hopes for a well-tended, productive garden were going down fast. Little Buddy needed TLC that I didn’t have time to give, and my husband was coming home to minor chaos after work.

Honestly, I felt like I was failing as a wife, mommy, and homemaker.

There was so much going on in life, so many things vying for my attention, and there was never enough time in the day.

That’s where I was at.

 

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Something needed to change.

God hasn’t called us to a spirit of fear, and I like to think that He hasn’t called us to a spirit of Overwhelm either. He doesn’t want us to be worried, harried, and stressed. In fact, His plans for us are very different…

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…” Matthew 1:28-29a

A little heart-to-heart with God helped me see the problem. I had set my expectations so high – I was going to be a great wife and mommy, I was going to keep an immaculate house, I was going to cook awesome meals and have a garden that was the envy of the neighborhood…

My goal was to excel. At everything. And my expectations for myself were not God’s expectations for me.

Now, I want you to understand… It’s not bad to want a clean house and a well-tended garden. Those are good things, things that can honor God. But when they get in the way of more important things in my life? That’s a problem.

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Pursuing God’s expectations of me…

God taught me some really good things when I hit Overwhelm, and here’s the biggest lesson I walked away with: God created us to be finite.

Really, that shouldn’t have been earth-shattering. Of course we are finite; only God is infinite. But if you’d have seen some of my to-do lists, if you’d have known some of my expectations of myself, you’d have thought this finite news was hot off the press!

Here’s the short and sweet of it: I am finite in my abilities, my time, and my energy. And that’s okay – it’s how God created me to be!

God is okay if my garden was a mess last summer. He’s okay if my fridge doesn’t get cleaned right this minute. He wants me to pursue the things that He wants for my life, and to do my best with the strength that He gives me.

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That’s where The Five Questions come in. 

As I sat down to deal with Overwhelm, I found myself dealing with priorities. Because that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? I can’t do everything; God hasn’t designed me to do everything. But He does want me to do something…

So I developed The Five Questions as I walked myself through my expectations, roles, and priorities in life. I compared my expectations with God’s expectations of me. And I ended with a To-Do list that only had eight things on it! (Hooray!!!)

The Five Questions simplified life, changed my perspective, and helped me align my priorities with God’s priorities.

Does that mean I’ve never dealt with the Overwhelm again?

Nope! I hit Overwhelm again last week!

God used these Five Questions to change me, and He is still using them to change me and realign my life with His plans for me.

That’s why I want to share this resource with you!

Not because these questions are a magic solution to anything. They’re not! But they are a tool that you can use to reassess your priorities and a tool that you can refer back to when the Overwhelm knocks on your door.

And guess what? Getting these Five Questions is super easy!

I would love to send them to you! It’s as easy as signing up for my email list below, and then clicking “Confirm Subscription” in the follow-up email sent to your inbox. Then you’ll receive an email straight from me with a downloadable copy of The Five Questions at the bottom – it’s yours for free!

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Not sure you want more emails filling up your inbox (and adding to your Overwhelm)? That’s okay – I understand that completely! Give us a try for a couple weeks, and you can always unsubscribe later if you want. The freebie is worth it! (And personally, I think you’ll like what you find! 🙂 )

Here’s the sign-up form!

I’d love to hear what you think of the freebie! Send me an email or post a comment below and share your thoughts!

Sending thoughts and prayers your way as you pursue God’s priorities!

                ~ Erin

P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe! 🙂

 

Looking for more great posts? Here are some of my favorites!

Good News and Bad News

Faith

The word faith is tossed around a lot today. Ask anyone on the street, and you’ve got a good chance of finding someone to be a spiritual person, someone who has faith. It’s easy to give a cop-out like, “Sure, I’ve got faith,” or “Yeah, faith is very important to me.” But these kinds of comments can mean so many things that they don’t mean much at all.

Don’t get me wrong. Faith is very important to me too. But what does that tell you about me? Not much. I could be talking about my conviction that purple kangaroos live on the dark side of the moon (which is nonsense) or my spiritual connection with Mickey Mouse (which is more nonsense).

Our questions need to go a little deeper… Why should we believe what we believe? How can we know what is true?

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Here’s the starting point!

We have lots of questions, and God has already given us the answers we need! He wants us to know Him, and He has given us the Bible as our guidebook for life. Every bit of the Bible is true, and we can trust it today. How awesome is that?!? We can know the God of creation!

The message of the Bible is really simple. It has some good news and bad news for every single one of us. And God is going to hold us accountable for what we do with that news…

 

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The bad news comes first…

Evil, destruction, and death came into the picture in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve disobeyed God; they ate the fruit that God had warned them not to eat. Adam and Eve sinned, and in doing so, their relationship with God was broken.

Unfortunately, none of us is any better than Adam and Eve. Check out what God says…

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23

All of us have done things in disobedience to God. Think about it – little white lies and whoppers, bad attitudes and all-out rage, the worship of immaterial things like wealth and power and the worship of wooden or stone statues – all of these put us in the same position before God.

We are sinners. All of us fall short.

Here’s an illustration of what that looks like… Imagine you and I are going to have a rock throwing contest. Our target is the North Pole, and we’re throwing from my home in Iowa. (No cheating and throwing from Canada!) Your rock might go farther than mine, or mine might go farther than yours (highly unlikely), but let’s be honest. Neither of us is going to hit the North Pole!

That’s what Romans 3:23 is talking about. We have sinned, and God’s glory is so great and holy and perfect, that even with our best efforts, our good works, our faithful charities, our baptism, our church membership… Nothing we do could ever gain us access to God’s glory. It’s as impossible as my rock hitting the North Pole.

 

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The news gets worse before it gets better…

The Bible says we are have all sinned. None of us can gain access to God. But that’s not the worst of it…

“For the wages of sin is death…”  Romans 6:23

We all know what a wage is, right? Let’s say you hire me to do some work for you. I work hard, get the work done, and you pay me fifty dollars. The fifty dollars is my wage, my payment for the work I’ve done.

God says that the payment for the sin we’ve done is death. That’s what Romans 6:23 means. All of us have sinned, and we have earned our wage – death.

Unfortunately, the wage of death isn’t just talking about physical death; it’s talking about a second, spiritual death too…

“Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not written in the book of life, he was thrown in the lake of fire.”  Revelation 20:14-15

Every one of us will die someday, and we will face the holy God of the universe. We’ll stand before Him and have to give an account for the sin that we’ve done in our lives. God will see our disobedience and give us our wages, the second death.

 

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Does that concern you?

I don’t know about you, but verses like Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, and Revelation 20:14-15 concern me. The lake of fire is a place of eternal torment and separation from God, and I don’t want to spend eternity there!

Here’s the amazing thing about our God: He doesn’t want us to spend eternity in the lake of fire either! This is what He says…

“The Lord is not slow in fulfilling His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9

Did you read that correctly? God doesn’t want us to die the second death! But what can God do? We’ve all chosen our path – we’re sinners. We’ve all earned our wages – eternal death. God is holy, and He never wavers from justice. Someone has to pay the price.

 

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Here’s the good news!

God loved us enough to sacrifice His only Son, Jesus Christ, so we could be free from our sin!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should never perish, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:7-8

Here’s an illustration of what happened. I know it’s an awful thought, but let’s say you have cancer. The doctors say there’s no hope, no treatments. You’ve got months to live, and then it’s over.

Then let’s say I come and take your cancer from you.

What’s going to happen to you? You’re going to live. What’s going to happen to me? I’m going to die.

That’s what Jesus did for us! He became human, lived a sinless life, and died the death on the cross that we deserved and He did not. Three days later, He rose to life again and proved to the world that He was who He said He was – the Son of God and the way to salvation!

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So how do we receive this salvation?

Remember how we started all this by talking about faith? This is where faith comes in…

“For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

I like to use an illustration with this verse too. I have a pen sitting beside me as I type; let’s say I want to give it to you, for keeps. (It’s a really nice pen!) I offer it to you freely, no charge, no strings attached. At what point does the pen become yours?

When you reach out and take it from me.

God is offering something to you now, something you don’t deserve, something you couldn’t ever hope to earn. He’s offering you eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. All He asks of you is to turn from your sin, ask Him for forgiveness, and trust in Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection as the final payment of your wages for sin. Have faith that He has paid it all and has given you eternal life!

“For our sake, He [God] made Him [Jesus Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

I have chosen to believe in Jesus Christ as the salvation necessary to save me from my sins. My faith in Jesus Christ has restored me to God, and now I am able to have a personal relationship with Him.

 

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What about you? Do you have faith?

I hope and pray this is a decision that you have made. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions – this is something I would love to talk to you about. 🙂

Blessings!

      ~ Erin

 

Interested in more? Try these posts!

Have you checked out my weekly email? It’s got a great freebie to go with it! Here’s the link for more information – A Little Bit of Sunshine… 🙂

 

This post has been updated from a previous post.

Great Read: “For Women Only”

Here’s the short version of this post. Ready?

You want to read this book! 🙂

     An Overview…

Someone gave me part of their library a few months ago, and For Women Only was in the mix. I had already heard of the author, Shaunti Feldhahn, so I was excited about the chance to read one of her books…

But within reading the first chapter? I was beyond excited. I was sold!

For Women Only is an intensely practical book about guys and how they tick. It’s a book that’s easy to read, easy to relate to, and easy to apply. And it’s a book that’s written by a woman who has “been there” and who understands where we’re coming from as women, wives, and moms…

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     The Author

Shaunti Feldhahn is a Christian, a wife and mom, a social researcher, and a best-selling author. Her books are unique in that they are not “how-to” or “self-help” books. Rather, they are researched-based, finding their foundation in hundreds of surveys conducted on the topics in question.

And that’s where her authority lies as the author of a book subtitled, “what you need to know about the inner lives of men.”

In preparing for her book, For Women Only, Shaunti and her team conducted “spoken and written interviews with more than one thousand men with the goal of delving into the ‘common perplexities’ that crop up when men and women interact” (p 10).

(She talked to one thousand men! That’s commitment!)

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     The Content

In studying the answers that these men gave her, Shaunti found seven “revelations… things that my own husband always wished I knew, but couldn’t figure out how to explain” (p 12). These revelations are principles that many women have a surface understanding of, things like “men need respect” and “men are visual.” But chapter by chapter, Shaunti digs behind these surface understandings to bring out what each principle means in the practical, everyday lives of our guys.

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     Here’s an Example…

Men need respect and women need love. That’s common marriage advice in today’s Christian circles, and it’s based on a Biblical concept found in Ephesians 5. But that statement still leaves us hanging without a practical vision of how love and respect play out in day-to-day life. “Wives respect your husbands…”

           Well, I’m pretty sure I respect him, so I’m good right?

Shaunti Feldhahn took this principle that we’re so familiar with and gave it hands and feet. She explains what is going through the male mind in regard to respect. She points out that while “most of us do respect the man in our lives and often don’t realize when our words or actions convey exactly the opposite!” (p 23-24).

Here’s a great example (p 30): Men need us to respect their abilities. They want us to trust them to figure things out. So when I suggest to my husband that we need to ask for directions on a road trip, I am inadvertently communicating distrust in his ability to get us to our destination. My comments are meant to be helpful, but his ears hear it as a slam on his ability and his intuition. He feels disrespect!

I had to smile when I checked my husband’s opinion on this one. Yes, he told me, that’s how he felt in situations like that, don’t women feel that way too? No, we don’t! It’s a team effort! Everybody’s trying to find they’re destination together, let’s help one another out! His response: It is a team effort – and they (anybody we might ask directions of) are on the other team!

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     The Value of this Book…

Honestly, it was these practical, real life examples and the resulting conversations with my husband that were so helpful to me. Before reading Shaunti’s book, I knew that I needed to respect my husband, and I was committed to doing just that. But For Women Only shed light on what respect looks like from his point of view, and that was incredibly helpful!

Every chapter gave me a better understanding of how guys think. And in some cases, Shaunti blew my mind with how much I didn’t get about men. Men are built to be different from women, and there are some things we just won’t understand until we hear them out on their point of view.

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     Biblical Womanhood…

Part of Biblical womanhood is sharing resources with our sisters in Christ, resources that point us to Christ, teach us truth, and change our perspective. That’s how we sharpen one another, how we help one another grow.

This book, For Women Only, is one of those resources for me. I wish I’d had it two years ago when I got married! It has changed my perspective on how men think and on how marriage works. Things like not stopping to ask for directions? I understand now! I get it!

As a sister in Christ, I wanted to share this resource with you too. I would encourage you, find a copy at the library, borrow one from a friend, check out Shaunti’s website 4-womenonly.com, whatever you need to do to make sure it’s a good buy. Then put it on your Christmas wish-list and buy it for friends!

Interested in buying it now? For Women Only is reasonably priced on Amazon. Buy one now, check it out, and come back for more later! Here’s a link!

Thanks for letting me share my heart and gush a little, friends! And let me know what you think of the book – I would love to hear your thoughts and things that you learn!

Blessings! ~ Erin

 

More Resources on Marriage

10 Ways I Can Love My Husband

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Choosing to Love My Husband

Let me tell you our story… 🙂

I moved back on campus for my sophomore year of college with lofty ambitions. I was going to grow in my walk with God, invest in the lives of girls around me, and pursue my education as a future teacher. And I was going to steer absolutely clear of boys.

And who should I meet my first week back at college? A handsome seminarian, just back from two years of teaching in Saipan.

I distinctly remember counseling myself in that first moment. “This is a brother in Christ, Erin. Be polite, kind, and encouraging. Focus on the brother aspect…”

Bumping in to him was inevitable.

We attended the same church, rode the church van together three times a week, and served in many of the same church activities, so getting to know him was inevitable. It also helped that he was a seminarian who “lived” in the library. I just happened to be the librarian. 😉

I really did try to think of him as a brother. It helped that I was a lowly sophomore, five years his junior. It did not help that he looked so handsome every time he walked into the library with a haircut.

Remember that lofty ambition I had as a sophomore? Of steering clear of boys? Well, I finally achieved it! It was halfway through my junior year when I began really considering the gift that singleness is. It’s a season of life, just like any other season, with beautiful aspects and lots of potential. Sure, marriage was something I wanted eventually, but I was going to use singleness to the best of my ability in the meantime.

Life seemed so simple when I thought of it that way. I was content with singleness until God chose to intervene.

Then, he happened.

And the same day the gift of singleness crystallized in my mind, he happened. That handsome seminarian.

“Erin, can I ask you something? See, I’d like to get to know you better…”

He was so sweet and considerate in asking me. Very understanding of my desire to think about it. He had no idea that he had just shook my entire world, and I had no idea how close I was to finding my very best friend…

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Something I’ve been learning…

When we read love stories, relationships have a way of looking easy. Of course he’s head-over-heels in love with her and she thinks the world of him. Why not? It’s a match made in heaven, the wedding bells are ringing, and they live happily ever after.

After all, that’s how Disney promised it would happen, right?

Today’s culture has conditioned us to think of true love as a feeling. It’s a wonderful, mystical thing that happens between two people, and when it happens to you, you can’t avoid it. Apparently this powerful force is best displayed in Disney princess movies and chick flicks.

I hope you know that’s not reality.

Disney is not a great depiction of what true love really is. (Gasp!) Our culture is wrong! Just a glance at the Bible’s classic love passage, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, shows us that love is a sacrificial action, prompting us to do what is best for another person even when it isn’t easy. It’s true that Biblical love includes feelings, but that’s not the full extent of Biblical love. It focuses on how I can serve my husband, not on how he makes me feel.

Love is a choice…

Despite the culture’s opinions on the subject, we do have a say in who we love. Love is a choice and an action! Remember Matthew 6:20-21? Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our hearts will love what we are actively investing in.

That means the question is no longer, “How does he make me feel?” but rather, “How can I invest my heart in this man?”

So let’s get practical.

With all of this in mind, I’d like to show you what “investing” looks like in our house. These simple actions are some of the practical ways that I intentionally invest my heart in my husband.

(Make sure you read to the bottom – I’ve got some great resources to recommend if you want to learn more!)

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10 Simple Ways I Love My Husband

  1. I go all out with breakfast every once in a while.

Cereal and bagels are pretty normal for breakfast at our house, and we like it that way. Simple is a really good thing early in the morning! But my husband also tells stories about the breakfasts he had on Saturday mornings as a kid. Pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon…

So every once in a while, I try to surprise him. I’ll get up a little early or hurry through my morning routine just so he can come out of the bedroom and smell the bacon. You should see his smile when I make that extra effort!

  1. I wash his French Press. (I told you these were simple!)

My husband is a coffee connoisseur. While he doesn’t mind ground coffee and a coffee machine, grinding his own beans and using a French press is usually preferred. As a girl who likes the smell of coffee but not the taste, I let coffee be his thing.

But here’s the thing about French presses – once they’ve been used, they’re dirty! (Imagine that, right?) French presses aren’t the easiest thing to wash, and they are an easy thing to set aside since they’re not part of my perception of normal breakfast dishes. So I have to be intentional about washing it with the rest of the breakfast dishes.

Coffee might not be my cup of tea, but I do want to take care of that French press if it’s his!

  1. I say thank you.

Husbands need encouragement! They want to be good husbands and daddys, and they work hard to provide. Believe it or not, it’s common for them to feel inadequate for the role that God has called them to. (If you’re curious about that, I would recommend reading the book For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. It’s about understanding how men think, and I learned a lot when I read it!)

So with his need for encouragement in mind, I try to really notice the little things that he does for us around the house. Taking out the trash or sweeping the Cheerios off the floor might seem insignificant, but it sure saves me some steps! Words like “Thank you for…” and “I really appreciate it when…” go a long way in letting him know I notice and appreciate the way he takes care of us.

  1. I leave encouraging notes every once in a while.

I want my spoken words are encouraging all the time, but written notes have an extra level of intentionality to them that make them special. They don’t happen all the time, just often enough to keep him guessing.

My favorite spots for “hiding” notes are on his to-do list, on his pulpit, and in his bathroom cabinet. I want to be just subtle enough in hiding them that he’s surprised, but always obvious enough that he’ll find them. 🙂

  1. I try to remember to clean his bathroom.

That sounds awful. A clean bathroom says “I love you?!” Well, there’s a story to that…

The bathroom on our main floor is a little feminine to say the least. We have a pink sink and a pink tub. (I’ve been told the stool was pink too, but that was replaced before we moved in.) So my husband was more than willing to claim the basement bathroom, which is not feminine at all with its cement floors and house centipedes. (Don’t look those up if you don’t like bugs.)

All of this sounds well and good until we realize that since I never use the basement bathroom, I never see the basement bathroom. Out of sight, out of mind, and that means I never remember to clean it.

There, true confessions of a forgetful housewife! I have to be intentional about remembering his bathroom, and then I have to be intentional about doing something about cleaning it. See how a clean bathroom can be a love language? 🙂

  1. I meet him at the door when he comes home from work.

This one started when I was growing up. My sister and I would begin to watch the driveway around 4:30, and “Daddy’s home!” would echo through the house as soon as his truck rolled into view. Then it was a race to the door as Dad pulled into the garage.

I love the idea of our kids doing this too, so it’s already a tradition for Little Buddy and me to watch for Daddy’s truck when he’s due home. It’s a practical way for us to show that he’s an important part of our lives and that we’ve missed him during the day!

  1. I always greet him with a smile and a kiss.

This one goes hand in hand with meeting him at the door. It’s just a little way to say “I missed you, and I’m so glad you’re home!” 🙂

  1. I’m learning to make fish, pork chops, and steak.

It’s okay if you don’t relate with me on this one. I’m a little weird.

I’ve never been a huge fan of meats – tacos and spaghetti are more my style than chicken, seafood, and steak. I prefer sandwich shops to steak houses as a rule. I’m just fine with that! But unfortunately, that means that my husband sees less meat on his plate than he might prefer…

Because it’s not my cup of tea, I have to make a conscious effort to treat him to the meat-and-potato-style meals. Pulling that meat out of the freezer every once in a while is an intentional way that I show him I love him.

(And seeing his eyes light up when he sees dinner on the table definitely makes it worth it!)

  1. I’m figuring out his favorite ways to relax and giving him time to do them.

As a stay-at-home wife and mommy, I love it when my husband comes home. Maybe this is just me again, but I’m ready to tell him all about my day when he walks in the door, blow by blow, ready or not. It’s the adult conversation that I’ve missed all day!

My husband is such a good listener, and he’s so patient with my chatter. But there are some times when he needs time to unwind. He’s been busy working, caring, and providing for us all day – he needs a break!

Giving him time to catch up on the online news or to read a book on the couch isn’t always how I picture spending the evening. But if he needs that time to unwind, it’s going at the top of my priority list!

  1. I give him my unconditional respect.

This is a hard one for a lot of women. We just don’t understand a man’s need for it. Things come into clarity a bit when we realize that most men would rather feel unloved than disrespected. (Again, I have Shaunti Feldhahn’s book For Women Only to thank for that thought!)

The fact is, our husbands need us. The world isn’t going to be their cheerleader. They want to know their wives are behind them one hundred percent!

It’s really interesting that we expect our husbands give us love unconditionally (which they should!), but we give them respect conditionally, expecting them to earn our respect. The Bible is pretty straightforward on this one. “Wives, respect your husbands.” No if’s, and’s, or but’s.

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A Couple Thoughts in Summary…

It comes down to this – marriage takes work. It’s just like a bank account in that we can’t expect to have anything valuable later if we aren’t steadily investing in it now. You have to be intentional. You have to take initiative. You have to invest in the relationship, even if you don’t see the return right away.

Now, your list will probably not look like mine. In fact, I can probably guarantee that it won’t. But the goal wasn’t to give you an exhaustive list of things to do for your husband anyway. Rather, I want you to take these examples and the principles behind them and tailor them to your marriage. Come up with your own list!

Where do I start?

First, find out what God says about marriage and your role in it. Read Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and 1 Peter 3, and find verses on marriage in the book of Proverbs. Study them out and be intentional in applying them to your life.

Second, pray! Ask God to help you give you the right attitude and strength to love your husband well. That’s one of those prayers that He would love to answer. 🙂

Third, be a student of your husband. Study his likes, his dislikes, his hobbies, and his goals. This might stretch you out of your comfort zone, but he’ll love it!

Fourth, be humble. Be willing to love him even if he isn’t reciprocating. The little things you do may go unnoticed, but the focus in loving him isn’t supposed to be on us anyway…

Want some resources?

I’ve come across some great resources that have greatly impacted my theology of and practice in marriage. These are books that I have read and learned from, and I absolutely recommend them to you if you’re looking for more ways to grow in this area!

LOVE AND RESPECT by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

(explains the different roles that love and respect play in a marriage based on Ephesians 5)

THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE by Pastor Timothy Keller

(explores the philosophy and Biblical foundation behind marriage with lots of great application for today’s culture)

FOR WOMEN ONLY by Shaunti Feldhahn

(explains what men wish their wives understood about men with practical life applications – THIS IS AN AWESOME BOOK!)

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Love is a choice…

We all have room to grow in this area. Whether we’re fresh off the honeymoon or celebrating seventy years of marriage, love is still a choice, an action, an investment.

So here’s what I want to know. What are you going to do about it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments in the comment section below. Biblical womanhood is a sisterhood thing, so let’s learn from one another!

Blessings!   ~ Erin

 

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Developing the Discipline of Spending Time with God

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Developing the Discipline of Spending Time with God

We’ve All Been There…

We mean to do it. And we try to do it! But when it comes to actually sitting down and reading our Bible? Spending time in real prayer? That’s a challenge for many believers.

I find myself in this position more often than I like to admit. If I don’t make spending time with God a priority first thing in the morning, I struggle to make it happen at all. Once my day has started, my mind is focused on other things – getting the dishes washed, moving clothes from washer to dryer, keeping Little Buddy occupied while I prepare lunch… It is a challenge to set everything aside to read God’s Word and pray.

But I don’t want that to be the story of my life!

I want to be like Enoch, the man who “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24, ESV). In Hebrews 11:4, we are told that he did this by faith. “By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.”

What an awesome thing to be remembered for! He walked with God, spending time with Him on a daily basis. And he pleased God because he walked with Him by faith.

Have you ever thought of it in that way before? When we spend time with God and walk with Him every day, it is an expression of our faith. We can’t see the One we’re spending time with. And we can’t see the immediate fruit of our time with Him. We do it because we are certain that He is there and we desire to know Him better.

What would God say about me? “By faith, Erin…”

Spending time with God is a discipline, a practice that is developed over lots of time through lots of repetition. Creating the daily habit is not easy or convenient. Rather, it takes time, commitment, and a lot of determination. And it takes faith.

I want to be a woman of faith.

So this post is devoted to the practical. To keeping it real and making it happen. The strategies that I’ve compiled are not mind-blowing, revolutionary, or magical. The strategies won’t do the work for you! But they can give you a place to start when you’re stuck in a side rut and God wants you walking with Him on the road. 🙂

So let’s get started!

 

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25 Strategies to Spending Time with God

1. Think through your priorities.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Take a peek at your heart – does God come at the top of your priority list? Is He worth investing your time, energy, and treasure in? I’ll admit, that’s a hard question to answer sometimes, but an honest answer here will make or break our likelihood of consistently spending time with Him.

2. Ask God for help.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). God is both willing and able to help you be consistent in Bible study, prayer, and memorization. He wants to answer this prayer!

3. Start with thirty days.

In seventh grade, the pastor gave our Sunday school class a piece of wisdom and a challenge. The wisdom? If you do something consistently for thirty days, you will have established a habit. The challenge? Spend time in the Bible every day for thirty days…and if you miss a day, start over!

4. I recommend mornings…

This one is different for everyone. Some people are early birds, and some people are night owls. I recommend spending time with God in the mornings either way – we’re less likely to be busy or distracted at that time, and I like to think that it starts my day off on the right foot.

That being said, find a time that works for you.

5. Beware of the snooze button!

I know it’s tempting – I’ve fought it too. But don’t use the snooze button if you’re going to do devos in the morning! Hit it one time too many, and what’s the first thing to skip when you’re running late? Don’t let it be your time with God!

I’ve had a lot of friends suggest setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier than I need to get up, just so I can snooze it three times and feel like I’m sleeping in. Be careful of that one! We’re training our brains to disregard the alarm when we snooze it too often, and soon we won’t be able to hear it at all!

6. Consider having an accountability partner.

Ask a friend or a mentor to hold you accountable! Commit to texting one another thoughts from that morning’s Bible reading every day. Knowing that someone is waiting to hear from you about your time with God can put some friendly pressure on your to keep priorities straight.

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Ideas for Bible Study…

7. Start small.

Don’t set out to read entire books of the Bible each day if you’re just starting! Pick a favorite book of the Bible, or a book of the Bible with a favorite story in it, and just start reading a few verses a day. You can always take on more later. 🙂

8. Read through the Bible in a year.

Every time I read through the Bible, I understand more of it and I remember more of it. Lots of Bible in a Year plans are available online, or you can just read through the Bible 3-4 chapters per day, and you’ll come out about right!

9. Try a word study!

I love this strategy! Choose a topic in the Bible that you want to learn more about, or an area where you know you need to grow, and use a concordance to find where God talks about it in His Word.

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Strong’s Concordance

My favorite tool for this is Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. It indexes every word that appears in the Bible, and it includes a dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words! My only difficulty is the copy I have is based on the King James Version, which I no longer use for personal Bible study. I would absolutely recommend investing in a concordance that corresponds to your favorite Bible version!

I’ve studied wisdom, Christ’s blood, finances, agape love, and joy using this strategy, and they have been some of the best studies of my life!

Interested in buying one? They’re reasonably priced on Amazon! Click here!

10. Be consistent.

Bible study is a discipline, so pick a strategy and stick with it. That doesn’t mean we’re stuck doing word studies for the rest of our lives, but it does mean we’re not being haphazard in how we approach God’s Word. There is a beautiful cohesiveness in the Bible, and we do it an injustice when we’re always cherry-picking verses we like and never reading for the bigger picture.

11. Use a Journaling Bible.

My Journaling Bible cost about $40, and it has been an investment that I treasure. Each margin has extra space where I can write down thoughts, prayers, cross references, and sermon notes.

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Journaling Bible

I love rereading a passage and seeing what I’ve learned before in the margin. It is a priceless treasure!

Journaling Bibles are available on Amazon, with lots of cover designs to choose from! Click here!

12. Write something down!

The teacher in me can’t help slipping this one in. 🙂 In school, we learn more about a lesson when we respond to it, take notes, or summarize a thought. These notes also become a resource when you need to look back and remember what you learned.

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Bible Study Journal

I prefer more space than my Journaling Bible gives me for this kind of daily study, so I tend to keep a Bible study journal on hand when I read. This pic shows a couple of pages out of my word study on joy – rereading those verses brings back lots of memories of what I was learning at that time!

Check out some of beautiful Bible study journals here!

13. Read out loud.

This one is another teacher tip. 🙂 Our mental engagement with a text and our memory of what we learn from it is directly related to the number of senses we use when we read it. Reading out loud involves our eyes, our mouths, and our ears. The more senses we use, the better we remember! Not to mention it helps us fight distraction. 🙂

14. Ask God to teach you something new every time you read the Bible.

“For the Word of God is living and active…” (Hebrews 4:12a). God’s Word is alive, and verses that we’ve known all of our lives may still have hidden gems in them that we haven’t discovered yet. Asking God to teach you more will make you more aware of His teaching when it comes!

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Ideas for Prayer…

15. Keep a prayer journal.

This strategy has revolutionized my approach to prayer! Use a small journal to record prayer requests that come up on a day-to-day basis, and pray through that list regularly!I love using this as a tool for prayer in my daily time with God.

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Prayer Journal

I’d recommend using another journal for prayer, separate from the Bible study journal. I like mine to be pocket sized, something I can take to church with me easily. This one is actually designed specifically for prayer,  with space for dates and answered prayers included!

You can browse prayer journals on Amazon here!

16. Pray for some people every day.

My husband and sons fall into this category, and they are listed at the beginning of my prayer journal. I pray that these men in my life will walk with God, resist temptation, and stand for Christ every day. Being a man of God in today’s world is challenging enough as it is, and if anyone is going to plead with God on behalf of my men every single day, it’s going to be me…

17. Have a system for prayer requests.

I struggle to remember the prayer requests that people give me if I don’t write them down, so I keep a running list of prayer requests in my prayer journal. Often my list gets too long to pray for all of these requests every day, so I try cycle through the list on a weekly basis. The list also becomes a great reminder to ask others if they have seen any answers to their prayer!

18. Track the dates!

Since we’ve got the running list of prayer requests already, write the date you start praying for requests in your journal too. And when God answers that prayer? Write that date down! Tracking these dates teaches us to be more aware of God’s work in answering our prayers, and it is encouraging!

19. Pray Scripture.

God wants us to pray according to His will, and what better way to start than in His Word? Do a study sometime on the prayers recorded in the Bible, and use these to help you pray for the people around you effectively.

20. Pray out loud.

I treasure getting to pray every morning, but my brain doesn’t always think straight through the early morning fog. Praying through my journal out loud might sound silly, but it helps me stay focused every time. Definitely something to try if you struggle with a sleepy brain too!

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Ideas for a Daily Walk…

21. Talk to God instead of talking to yourself.

Telling God about what you’re thinking is far more productive than telling yourself! Thank Him for the beautiful day, tell Him you’re running low on patience, ask Him for grace in the busy traffic… He wants to hear from you, and telling Him the details of your day will help you keep your gaze on Him.

22. Keep a thankful journal.

This tip is another favorite! Every night, think back through your day and pick five things that you are thankful for – blessings, surprises, challenges, and lessons. Write these down and thank God for them in a small journal set aside for that purpose.

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Thankful Journal

I used this strategy consistently for about three years, and I treasure the memories that those journals hold. This little strategy taught me to be intentional in giving “thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I loved ending every day on a thankful note!

Here’s another easy link for finding a journal for you!

23. Make a habit of praising God to others.

Those blessings and challenges that you write down in the thankful journal? Tell people about them, and give God the glory! It’s such a natural reply to the basic greeting, “How are you today?” “Well, there’s this challenge in my life right now, but God is teaching me through it, and let me tell you how!”

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What If I Don’t Feel Like It?

24. I Don’t Want to be a Hypocrite…

So should I skip Bible reading and prayer until I do feel like it? No! God uses the time that we spend with Him to make us hungry for more. The best thing to do when you don’t feel like it is to do it anyway, and ask Him to give you a desire for time with Him. He would love to answer that prayer for you!

25. Read Psalm 119.

Are there days when I don’t feel as enthused about reading my Bible as others? Absolutely. And are there seasons in my life when I struggle to be faithful in walking with God? Yes, there are. That’s when I pull out Psalm 119. I can’t read through this Psalm and not be challenged to love God’s Word more. The psalmist’s love for God and His Word is catching, and God always uses it to help me love Him more.

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It Starts with a Choice.

The key to changing our lives is not in the past; it’s in the present! All of us have areas in our lives where we wish we’d made different choices, and we could spend our time focused on regret. But change happens in the present, the here and now, and it starts with a choice.

Now, to reiterate what I said earlier, these strategies don’t do the work for you. Buying lots of journals and Bible study tools only helps if you actually use them! Spending time with God takes discipline. It’s something that is practiced over lots of time, with lots of repetition. It takes commitment, determination, and faith.

I hope and pray this post will give you some practical ideas for how you can enrich your walk with God. Do you have any other strategies for spending time with God? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

Blessings!

~ Erin

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Bearing Fruit

Hello everybody! Happy Saturday!

I get to share my last installment of the Parable of the Sower study today! I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey with me – I know I’ve learned a lot. As always, here are links to part one, part two, and part three, in case you need to catch up. 🙂

We’ve seen three different planting scenarios so far in the Parable of the Sower. First, there were the seeds that fell in the path. Those didn’t even sprout because the birds ate them immediately. Next the seeds fell in stony ground, where rocks kept the plants from rooting deep and getting the water they needed. Then came the seeds that fell into thorny ground. These seeds did survive – they sprouted and grew, but they were choked out by the many weeds around them and never bore fruit.

Each scenario showed something different happening to the seed. And each scenario represented a different response of the heart to God’s Seed, His Word.

This week’s seed falls into good ground… and the response that it represents is my favorite!

 

Come See My Sunflowers…

If you were to visit our house this month, I would show you my sunflowers. I love their bright cheery color and their majestic friendliness. I have about ten plants at the back of my garden, and they really do brighten my day!

I don’t have ten because I planted ten. Actually, I planted twenty in that plot. Each seed was carefully placed the correct distance apart from the previous seed, the correct depth from the surface.

But only ten came up. Maybe it happened like the parable. Maybe a lucky bird that got an easy supper. Maybe there were too many baby weeds vying for nourishment, or a stray rock blocked the plant roots from sinking deep. It could have been anything.

And all of that is not to say that the ten plants that made it are bearing sunflowers. No, only about five are actually making good on their full potential.

But those five are glorious! Bright yellows stained with a gorgeous autumnal orange. I’ve had five or six different flowers on each plant in the past few weeks. They are beautiful.

 

“And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:8)

At first glance, it seems like the sower was losing more than he was gaining. Between the birds and the stones and the weeds, he was out a lot of seeds! Hopefully he had a better average than I did with my sunflowers…

His seeds that do grow to be healthy plants more than make up for the others though! One seed produces thirty new seeds, another seed produces sixty, another a hundred. With plants like that, he’ll have plenty of grain for food as well as seeds to plant next season.

Jesus says that these seeds represent Christians. They hear the Word of God proclaimed, they receive it in their hearts, and it grows in them until they bear the spiritual fruit that God intended them to bear – more seeds!

What If It Happened Like This?

It’s been five years since Stella first heard the good news about Jesus Christ and accepted it, and her life has never been the same. Sure, she’s had her moments – times when she’s slipped back into her old way of living and times when she’s doubted. But God has always brought her back, forgiven her sin, and reminded her of truth. And every time He’s brought her back, her love for Him has deepened. She loves telling the people that she bumps into about what God has done in her life!

 

I Want This to Happen in Me!

The seed has been planted. In my life, it started with my parents. They have faithfully shared Bible verses and Bible truths with me for as long as I can remember. God, as the Master Sower, used them to plant His Word deep in my heart, and it’s not going anywhere!

The plant has sprouted and grown. My faith has been nurtured by godly pastors and teachers. My heart has been weeded and watered and prepared for the hot summer sun. God’s Word has grown in my heart, rooting deeper, reaching farther, and stretching higher.

But this isn’t everything that God wants for me. The Master Sower has planted, and the seed has grown – now it’s time for fruit!

 

The Fruit

I find it fascinating that the plant in the parable produces grain. It seems obvious until you realize – that means more seeds! We usually think of godly character traits or good works when we think of the fruit that we’re supposed to bear as Christians.

But in this parable, we’re producing Seeds. More Seeds to spread for the Master Sower. Isn’t that an amazing thought?!

Now take it a step further. How much grain does the plant in the parable produce? Thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. That’s a lot of grain! It’s as if the plant understood the purpose that God had for its life was to bear fruit, so it threw itself into bearing fruit with its whole heart and soul.

God wants me to produce more seeds for Him to scatter. And He wants me to do it abundantly!

 

A Little Application…

  1. I am so thankful for the opportunity to read God’s Word every day. And I am so thankful to be in a church that teaches God’s Word faithfully. His Word is strengthening the seed that God planted in my heart so long ago, and it’s helping me grow!
  2. The more I understand the Word of God, the better I am able to weather the storms of life. Because life isn’t easy. The rocks come up, the sun gets hot, the weeds get thick. God gives us His Word to help us over the rocks, to shelter us from the sun, and to convict us when the weeds grow too fierce. We cannot survive without it!
  3. The more I understand God’s Word, His character, and His gospel, the more I love Him! Of course I still stumble and fall, but He always sets me on my feet again. And I love Him more every time He does. That’s what compels me to live according to His Word. That’s what compels me to pursue a closer relationship with Him. And that’s what compels me to share gospel seeds with the people around me.

 

May I leave you with a challenge?

Where are you in the parable? Have you received the seed? Are you letting it grow? Are you taking care of the rocks and weeds that come up in your life?

Are you bearing fruit?

 

The End!

Thanks again for joining me on this walk through the Parable of the Sower. Studying this passage has given me a huge love for this parable. I hope it has been as encouraging for you!

Blessings!

Erin

Tending the Garden

Hi my friends! Happy Friday!

Here’s part three of my Parable of the Sower study! I have enjoyed taking a deeper look at these verses, and I hope you have too. Here are links to part one and part two in case you need to catch up. 🙂

In interest of review… The parable of the sower is a story in which a farmer goes out to sow his seeds, and four different planting scenarios arise. Jesus uses these scenarios to picture four different responses to the gospel. We’ve already looked at the seeds that were eaten by birds and the seeds that fell into rocky soil. This week we get to explore the seeds that fall into thorny ground.

Personal Experience…

Speaking of thorny ground, my vegetable garden is not very show-worthy this year. Maybe I’m the only one, but I always seem to start the season with great intentions – consistent weeding, consistent watering, proper care, and a bumper crop, right?

Somehow I fall short somewhere between June and July. Good intentions take a backseat to more pressing house chores, and I end up where I am today – tired plants that look a little worse for wear, and healthy weeds that are thriving. At least I was smart this year and planted zinnias in front of my veggies. The weeds are a little less noticeable. 🙂

 

“Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain…” (Mark 4:7)

The sower from the parable had trouble with weeds too. (See? We’re in good company!) As the seeds germinated and grew, so thorns popped up too and crowded out the seeds that the sower had planted. As a result, the baby plants were choked and prevented from producing grain. Jesus explains later that these plants represent people who hear the gospel but are distracted by the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things. Their distraction prevents them from bearing the spiritual fruit that God intended them to bear.

What if it happened like this?

Amy has a good life. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, and their kids are excelling in school and in sports. She and her husband both work long hours, but the pay is great, and they’ve recently put a down-payment on their dream house. Their spare time goes to the family hobby – soccer. Between coaching, practice, camps, and away games, life is jam-packed with good things. Amy was raised in a Christian family, but with everything else going on, she finds it hard to make it to church regularly. “I know it’s important, but there are so many other things happening right now…”

This isn’t hard to picture, is it? Especially in the American-dream-driven culture that we live in. It’s so easy to get involved in extra stuff, and it’s so hard to say no. The tragedy occurs when we allow these lesser priorities to take over the time that we should be devoting to God.

The Thorns…

As Jesus explains this parable, He identifies three types of thorns that can choke out the seed of the Word of God. He mentions the cares of this world, which are our everyday worries – making a living, paying the bills, visiting the doctor. The deceitfulness of riches is next in the line-up – the siren call of a potential pay raise, a substantial 401k, or a lucrative stock market. Finally, Jesus speaks of the desires for other things – a bigger house, a nicer car, a fancy vacation.

Do you see these things in Amy’s American dream? She has a great family, a successful job, a nice home, and a happily busy schedule… a schedule that is choking out her time with God. None of Amy’s “stuff” is bad in and of itself, but these extra things are taking over the garden of her heart and crowding out the Seed that is really important.

Christians Can Struggle With This Too…

So what about me? Is the garden of my heart well-tended and clear of weeds? Or is there “stuff” in my life that seems innocent enough, but is actually preventing me from nurturing God’s Word in my heart?

We’re never going to be finished with weeds. Anyone with a garden can testify to that! The key with a garden is to be consistent – to spend a little time on a regular basis finding the little rascals and rooting them out. That way we don’t end up with an overgrown mess on our hands! The same is true of our hearts. While we might not be able to see the thorns in our life, God does. And He wants to help us root those out.

I’m going to be honest – I don’t have the strength to root these thorns out by myself. But God does! My prayer is that God will give me a love for Him that is greater than my love for the things of this world. That He would tend my garden, nurture His Word, and cause it to bear His spiritual fruit in my life.

Let God tend your garden. And trust Him as He does – He’s the master gardener!

Praying for you!

~ Erin

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Dealing with Rocks

Hi everybody! Happy Friday!

I’m so excited to share this next installment of my Parable of the Sower study. If you missed my first one, you can find it here. 🙂

Last week I wrote about the sower and the seeds and the path and the birds. I illustrated what that scenario might look like today, and I shared what I had been learning about how this passage applies directly to our lives as a Christians. I hope to do the same with the seed and the rocks today!

A Bit about Rocks…

Being a recent resident of Iowa and therefore surrounded by farmers, I’m beginning to understand this situation a little better than I did before. Every year, farmers plow their fields and prepare them for their crops, and part of that process is “picking rock.” Which is basically a lot of long hot hours walking through massive fields, picking out the rocks and stones that have surfaced when the farmer plowed the field. And the job never ends! Somehow there are always more rocks to pick out, to the point that people joke about growing rocks as well as corn and soybeans.

Why spend all this time picking rocks out of a field? I’m sure there are a few reasons, but the one that is relevant to the Parable of the Sower is that rocks prevent the baby plants from growing properly. Rocks block the root systems of the plants so they can’t reach deep into the soil and find the water and nutrients that these plants need to survive the sun’s heat.

“Other seed fell on rocky ground…” (Mark 4:5)

So when the sower’s seeds fall on rocky ground, the baby plants spring up quickly, but there are too many stones in the way to take root. The sun quickly scorches the baby plants because they have not established the deep roots that they need to survive the hot climate. Jesus explains that these seeds represent people who hear the gospel and receive it gladly, but when hardship or persecution confront them, they abandon their faith and fall away.

What if it looked like this?

“Jesus died to save you, and He wants to change your life. You just have to accept Him.” I want a changed life, thinks Jenna, so she accepts Him. She’s excited about her new-found faith, and she begins telling her friends about the decision she’s made. But in the next week, her doctor informs her that she has cancer, likely months to live. Her friends mean well, but they can’t help asking questions. “Why is this happening to you if Jesus is supposed to make your life better?”

This is an extreme example, but it makes my point. Sometimes people “accept Jesus” with the wrong expectations. They think a “changed life” means a better life, a healthy life, or a comfortable life. They don’t realize that’s not what Jesus promises. Jesus says He will give Christians eternal life, but He also says Christians will undergo hard times in this life. They will be scoffed at and persecuted. So when the hard times and scoffers and persecutions come, these people who have accepted Jesus for a “changed life” are disappointed, and they reject their new-found faith as some cheap trick. They abandon their faith and fall away.

Believers Can Struggle With This Too…

Like I mentioned in the previous post, this parable is primarily about the different responses that unbelievers can have toward the gospel. But there is application for believers as well! It’s easy for us to allow expectations to creep into our minds, just like Jenna. Expectations of a healthy family, a growing church, children who are walking with the Lord… After all, we are serving the Lord, right? Surely He’ll bless us with those things…

But that’s not what God promises. He doesn’t promise to remove all hardship from our lives.

Our Story

My husband and I got a small taste of this last year. Our son was a classic “blue baby,” diagnosed with a heart defect when he was less than 48 hours old. He had open heart surgery three days later, and he spent ten days in the hospital for recovery. Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the day we brought Little Buddy home from the hospital. 🙂

Our story isn’t unique – there are many who have gone through much harder circumstances. But for His own reasons, God wanted the three of us to have this particular experience. He wanted to use it in our lives to grow us, to increase our faith in Him, and to give us opportunities to share the gospel. Was it hard? Yes! I still tear up when I think about those hard days. But I also tear up when I think of how God walked with us through it – the Bible passages that we clung to, the family and friends and pastors who encouraged us, and the people who were praying for us literally all over the world.

That’s what God promises us – to walk with us through the hard times.

A Bit of Application

Rocks are going to come up in our lives. Like the farmers in Iowa, we’re never going to be fully rid of them. But I don’t think we have to let them shake our faith. My prayer for me, for my family, and for you, is Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:17-19 – that we might be “rooted and grounded” in Christ’s love, knowing that His love for us surpasses anything that we could comprehend.

We can trust that He knows what He’s doing when the rocks come up.

Praying for you! Until next time!

~ Erin

 

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The Parable of the Sower

Hello, my friends! Happy Tuesday to you all!

It’s been a little crazy at our house this week – we celebrated Little Buddy’s first birthday on Saturday, spent time with church and some friends traveling through all day on Sunday, and now my husband is down with a head cold. Yikes! I think we’re headed into a normal week, though, so hopefully life will slow down soon. 🙂

A Little Piece of Life…

One exciting part of life lately has been a Bible study that I’ve been able to start up with a couple of the girls in our church. We’re focusing on relationships, addressing first our most important relationship – our walk with God.

In studying for this past lesson, I spent some time in the parable of the sower (Mark 4), and I enjoyed the study so much, I thought I’d share some of it with you!

The parable of the sower is a story in which Jesus uses four different planting scenarios to picture four different responses to the gospel. I’m just going to talk about the first scenario here. Stay tuned for the rest of the series in the coming weeks!

The Seed and the Birds

The parable begins as the sower goes out to plant his field. In Jesus’ day, all of the farmers planted their seeds by hand, casting them into the soil. As this sower casts his seed, some of the seeds fall on the path. These seeds have no chance to grow whatsoever – they are exposed to the elements and the birds quickly eat them. Jesus explains later that these birds represent Satan. When someone hears God’s Word for the first time, Satan is all too glad to snatch the Word from that person’s heart.

And really, this might be more common than we’d think. What if it looks like this?

Dan and Sue visit church for the first time in ages as a favor to a friend. They find the pastor preaches from the Bible, and he presents them with the gospel. But as they walk through the parking lot toward their car after church, Dan suddenly remembers that one of their taillights is out. “We’re going to have to stop by the hardware store this afternoon…”

See what just happened? Something completely innocuous has caught their attention, and now Dan and Sue intent on fixing the taillight. That’s innocent enough, but it has taken their attention from the good news of salvation that they just heard in church. A bird has come and snatched away the seed.

 

Believers Can Struggle With This Too!

This parable is primarily about the different responses that unbelievers can have toward the gospel, but there is application for believers as well. Jesus’ story shows us that one of Satan’s strategies in preventing Christian growth is distracting us from God’s Word. Who are we to assume that he only uses this strategy with unbelievers?

Truthfully, I find myself in this position more often than I like to admit. If I don’t make it a priority to spend time with God at the beginning of the day, I struggle to make it happen it all. Once my day has started, my mind is focused on other things – getting the dishes washed, moving clothes washer to dryer, keeping Little Buddy occupied as I prepare lunch… It’s a challenge to set everything aside to read God’s Word and pray.

And even reading in the morning can be challenging. My body is still waking up, and my eyes are bleary. I’m watching the clock to keep our morning routines on schedule, and I’m beginning to think through the events of the day. It’s embarrassing how often I find my mind wandering from my time with God.

If this is your struggle too, be comforted. You’re not the only one! Make a plan to spend time with God. Ask Him to keep you consistent and focused. Keep a pen and paper handy and write down your distractions as you spend time with Him – those distractions will still be there when you’re done. 🙂

Our time with God is too precious to miss. Stay faithful, and He will honor that!

I’m compiling a list of practical tips for spending time with God in Bible study, prayer, and memorization, and I hope to post it soon. Do you have any tips that have helped you? Let me know in the comments below or drop me a note via my contact page, and I’ll add them to my list!

In the meantime, I hope you have a great day!

~ Erin

When Life Gets Expensive…

This summer has been a little dramatic at our house. Chaotic. Expensive.

I’d have to say it started with the back water spigot. You know something’s wrong when you get a man-made lake in the basement because you tried to water the garden with the hose. Enter the plumber.

Next came the heating and cooling man. Our air conditioner hasn’t ever cooled the house efficiently for us, and we really needed to get that looked at before the summer got too hot. The dicey part started when the AC guy told us our air conditioner must have been original to the house. That model is now “out of print,” so to speak, so the only option is to buy a brand new machine. And by the way, your furnace is on its last leg too…

Cue the dentist. “You really need to make an appointment for a root canal as soon as possible…”

Yikes!

We’re not the only ones this happens to, are we? Of course not. But to be honest, it was really hard to count blessings for a while there.

Enter our Heavenly Father with His wonderful promises and His impeccable timing. I tested positive on the day they installed the new air conditioner and furnace. Pregnant. A baby!

It’s almost like God was telling us, “You’re so worried about these temporary possessions…. Here’s an eternal treasure to restore your perspective.”

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God doesn’t promise us an easy life. He doesn’t promise to give us incredible wealth or perfect health. But for Christians, He does promise a home with Him in eternity. Our goal in life is not get as much stuff as we can. (Newsflash: The one with the most toys at the end does not win!) Our bank account will one day pass into nonexistence. But our children? Our salvation? Our home with God? These things are truly lasting.

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