I grew up in church. I prayed the sinner’s prayer literally at least 200 times in my childhood. I was always afraid I didn’t get it right and would go to hell. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I finally realized what that prayer was about. I knew all the answers but I didn’t really understand that it was about a personal relationship. When people said they loved God I didn’t comprehend how that was possible. It was more about submission to avoid punishment in my mind.

When I finally accepted Jesus into my heart and truly got it, it changed my life. I loved God. I was thankful for Jesus and the sacrifice he made so I wouldn’t have to pay the price I deserved. The fear of hell no longer consumed me. I was excited about going to church. I wanted to tell others about God and about the relationship I had.  I wanted the light of Christ to shine through me.  I was excited to read the Bible and pray. I was very involved in my youth group. I enjoyed everything about God. I was eager to know more and share with others.

Since then I’ve had my ups and downs in my relationship with God.

We all make choices that put a wall between us. We get busy, we put God on the back burner. At the end of the day I realize I haven’t spent any time with God and I fall asleep reading or praying. I choose not to get up early to read or pray.  I don’t make God a priority like I used to. I make excuses.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place. Revelation 2:4-5

There it is. That not so gentle reminder that I’ve gotten away from where I started.

Sometimes we need a fresh start in life, in our relationship with God. We think we know it all so we stop seeking after him. We get content with where we are.  But we need to go back to the place where we first began our walk with God. Back to the place where we first got excited about our salvation.

Get back to the love you first had for God. The love that consumed you. The desire to know him. To the place where you need to fellowship with him each day.

Be excited about reading, praying, spending time with God. Find that desire to share him with others. Remember that feeling of knowing someone was going to hell and the urgency you felt to share Christ with them. Be the light in this world.

Anytime you feel like you are losing the love and passion you had for God remember these verses. Repent and do the things you did at first.

 

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3: 6-8

Well… that’s a little intense, huh?

If you go to a busy mall and just sit and listen for a while, you will believe this passage. You will hear things that make you want to wash out your ears. And you’ll point your finger (maybe in your head at least) and say THOSE are the people James was talking about.

But, is it really just THOSE people?

What if I said I’m one of THOSE people that James is talking about? And what if I say I’m pretty sure you are too?

I have days where my words have a split personality. I will praise God in the morning, then cut down my neighbor in the evening. I will build up my friend at lunch, and tear down my children at dinner. I will post something inspirational, and then snap at my husband.

Words have power. They have the power to kill and the power to give life.

I’m still working on taming my tongue and I don’t mind being honest about that. I know that is something every human struggles with because the Bible says it clearly in James 3.

But what am I doing to actively take my words captive and make them obedient to the Lord?

I am praying more. When my mind is in tune with God and I’m in constant conversation with him my thoughts are naturally more like his. Instead of getting angry quickly, I can whisper a quick prayer and not let my words fly.

I am reading the Bible more. For me, I learn by seeing words whether I write them or read them. I need to see things written down. So when I read the word of God, I am learning more about what he says. I can make my thoughts reflect his words.

I am asking for forgiveness. I have a terrible time with being sarcastic. I always have. I try to be funny but it comes across mean and I hurt feelings. I know this. So, I’m asking for forgiveness when I know I’ve hurt someone. My words have the power for life and death, but I won’t let my words kill. If my hurtful words linger in someones heart and I don’t ask for forgiveness they will kill a small part of them. I don’t want to be responsible for that.

I am being more conscious of the words that come out. I don’t want to be calculated in everything that I say. But when I know I’m about to say something important I try to weigh the costs. Is what I’m saying going to build this person up or is it going to tear them down? Is it going to make me feel better in the moment while making them feel worse?

I’m no where near perfect. I have a long way to go. But I’m working on it. I want my words to be a spark that sets the world on fire for Jesus. I don’t want the devil to use my words against me for evil. So, I’m trying not to let praise and curse both come out of my mouth. I am focusing on the positives and letting my mind dwell there so that my words will be the overflow.

What are you doing to tame your tongue and your words?

Are you going through a storm in your life right now? Have you been through a storm recently? If you said no, you should get ready because it’s coming soon. I’m not trying to scare you into always looking over your shoulder but it’s just a part of life. If you never go through a storm in life you must not love anyone or ever leave your house. That’s how certain I am that it happens to everyone at some point.

I have been thinking about storms, spiritual and the ones the weather provide. There is a song I love that says, “The anchor holds in spite of the storm.” The anchor here is God. It’s a common phrase that God is our anchor when we face storms. I did a little research about anchors and I found something that made this phrase mean so much more to me.

When a boat or ship is out at sea they might drop their anchor for a couple reasons. They want to stay where they are for a while or they are trying to protect themselves during a storm. When they throw out the anchor, it’s attached to a chain or cable of some sort. So there are 3 pieces to this puzzle, the boat, the anchor, and the chain.

We of course are like boats. Vessels that wander the earth and are tossed about by storms.

As I said before, God is our anchor.

A boat’s anchor without a chain has no benefit to the vessel. The anchor will still do what it was created to do, fall to the bottom of the sea. But it can’t protect the vessel, there is no connection. Now please don’t misunderstand me here. I am in no way saying God is pointless. But, God is God with or without you. He can still do his job.

But the chain. The chain is the key piece.

Thank you, Jesus, the chain is the key piece!

If we have no connection to God, no relationship, God cannot truly be our anchor.

If we carry him around with us and then throw him out to sea to help us with the storms in our life but we have no chain, no connection to him, what have we done? Was it just a safety net that we throw out to help us in those hard times? It’s not that God doesn’t want to help those that have no relationship with him, but if you don’t trust him on the good days why would you trust him on the hardest days?

God wants us to have a relationship with him. To know him, to pray, to study, to learn about who he is. He deeply wants us to be connected to him. He doesn’t just want to be your anchor when you are facing a hard time in your life. He doesn’t want to hear from you only when you’re scared or alone. He wants to be your anchor in the calm waters too.

When you are going through a storm and you trust God, remember that the anchor doesn’t keep you from moving. It doesn’t stop the storm. But it keeps you from some of the worst effects of the storm and from being destroyed by it.

God will be with you through every storm, trial or regular day you face if you ask him to. You can carry him as your anchor in your vessel with you wherever you go. He will give you strength and courage for the journey.kristal2fbjoshua1

Have you ever found yourself in a season of life where you say yes to every opportunity that crosses your path? Teach Sunday school, yes! Be in charge of some group, yes! Make 1000 cupcakes, yes! Take on extra shifts at work, yes! Give up your free time to help someone else, yes! Spin your wheels until you have no gas left, YES!!

This is exactly where I have found myself recently. My husband and I lead the youth, I’m over the Children’s ministry, I’m on the worship team, I sell Thirty-One, I stay at home with my almost 3 year old and 1 year old, we have multiple therapies and doctor appointments each week, and now I’m writing again. I’m exhausted just writing that out!

You’re probably going through your lists of titles, too, and realizing just how many you actually have.

It’s easy to manage multiple roles. It’s pretty easy to do a couple of them well. But it’s impossible to do them all with excellence.

I have had to check my motives in the past 2 weeks.

I have felt God’s call to start writing again, but more than that to be active in sharing what I write, developing a community of women that I can connect with. To do this takes time. I need to take time and energy from other places to put them into this. So I’ve been evaluating why I say yes to most opportunities that come my way and which things God wants me to step away from.

Some of the things I say yes to I’m truly passionate about, but others have different reasons.

The surface level reason I say yes is because I want to help. I want to make other people’s jobs easier, even if that makes mine harder. I have a lot of interests so I know a little about a lot of things. I want God to use what I have therefore I make it readily available.

Then, there are a couple deeper, messy reasons I say yes. Maybe you can relate.

I want to be important. I want someone to tell me I’ve done a good job. I want to make a difference and want the credit for it. I want to hear my name called out in front of a crowd of people.

Selfish. So very, very selfish.

I feel the pressure to be validated by my many accomplishments. If I’m not first, I might as well be last. I need to justify being a stay at home mom to certain family members, so I want them to see all the great things I do. I could go on and on about my selfish intentions.

But here’s the thing. God didn’t call me to be stressed out and stretched thin while trying to do what he’s called me to do. He doesn’t want me to say yes to everything, and he doesn’t want you to either. He wants us to focus on our passions, to seek out the thing he has called us to do and then to run after that thing with all we have. God wants your best, not your left overs. If I’m too busy fulfilling my selfish desires how do I have time to live out the life God has created me for?

I don’t.

Check your motives. Are you saying yes to the things God wants you to say yes to? Or are you doing whatever you can to make you feel better about yourself? If you don’t know what that thing is that God has created and called you to do, ask him.

Heavenly Father, thank you for making us each unique creations. You have called us to specific tasks and given us each special gifts to serve you. Help us to open our hearts to hear your call. Give us an excitement and passion for that thing you created us to do. Take away our selfish desires to glorify ourselves. Help us to know when to say yes or no to opportunities that come up. Thank you for your goodness to us. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your purposes and designs. Amen.

This weekend is a happy time for me and my little family! Sunday will mark 1 year that Sadie has been home and we have been together as a family. I call it family day!

We knew before Sadie was born that something was not right with her brain. I was prepared for her to be taken away from me to spend a couple days in the NICU. I had mentally prepared myself for the moment they would take my newborn baby away from me. The thought still terrified me. Imagine my surprise when they checked her over after she was born and said she could stay with me, that there was no immediate need for testing! Such sweet relief.

About 12 hours after she was born, everyone had gone home, my husband was sound asleep on the couch, and I was cuddling that beautiful bundle of joy getting ready to lay her down so I could get some rest. The nurse walked in and said she needed to take her to the nursery for a couple quick tests and she would bring her right back. I closed my eyes to rest. When the nurse came back in my Sadie Grace was not with her. She told me her pulse ox was too low and she needed to be monitored in the NICU. The moment I had dreaded, then been relieved of, had now happened when no one else was with me.

My husband is a very deep sleeper, it’s a blessing and a curse. I could not get him to wake up. I had a C-section so I couldn’t get out of bed and he couldn’t hear me calling out to him. I was alone. I didn’t really understand why she had been taken to the NICU and I couldn’t go see her until she was all settled in, so I had to sit there in that hospital bed. Scared, confused, questioning what God was doing to my family.

My husbands faith is greater than mine. He believes that God can and will do the impossible. When we found out about Sadie’s brain abnormalities he believed when she was born things would look so much better than they did on the ultrasound. I believed they would be exactly as we saw them. Even though I prayed and trusted that God would carry us through, I didn’t believe anything would change. But I did let my husband’s hope linger in my mind. When she was taken to the NICU that night, I began to feel anger towards God. Things were supposed to be better. But here we were facing something totally unrelated to her brain, things were worse.

In that hospital bed, waiting to go see my newborn baby again, I cried out to God. He was all I had in that moment. I prayed for strength for Sadie and for myself, I prayed for understanding, I prayed for the doctors and nurses that were now taking care of my baby when I couldn’t. I tried to believe God’s word: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:11-3

At midnight in the midst of all my emotions it was hard to see the truth in those words. But 7 long weeks later they were truer than I had ever imagined. Those first few days we thought we might lose her, but God let us keep her. He had a plan from the very beginning that I couldn’t see that first night. She is an amazing miracle from God. So this weekend we will be celebrating her and thanking God for his plan for her, for carrying us through, for never leaving our side when the days are hard, and praising God for the fact that we are together as a family. We celebrate the struggles and imperfections we have faced. We now know that in our weakness God makes us strong, and in turn sadiethenandnowwe can give him the glory for what he has done.