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“No” Excuses

Why is it so hard to say no? Saying no has become something negative and we avoid it over and over. We live in constant fear of saying the wrong thing or offending others, even if that means putting our own feelings aside. Being transparent from the start will avoid some of the greatest obstacles in our relationships.

You are allowed to have boundaries. Make them known and respect yourself. We can’t assume that others think and feel the same as we do,l. How will they know if you don’t make your boundaries clear? Give yourself permission to say no.

How do you say no and not feel bad about it? To answer that, you have understand why people feel bad for saying it. It’s simply because people generally take the path of least potential conflict. If we do say say no, we usually offer an excuse to go with it. Like saying we have something else going on instead. But the problem with this approach is it gives the other person an opportunity to continue to ask.

Rather than offer an excuse and postpone the request, respectfully make your boundaries clear to avoid problems and avoid revisiting the same issue over again.

As mother to 6, limited time is an understatement. I had to find a way to get comfortable with the word “no.” I prayed about this a lot, asking God to help me have more courage to set boundaries and to give myself permission to say no. I didn’t want to make others feel rejected. Prayer is a powerful thing… I began to say no with more ease and guess what? No one was upset with me, I didn’t hurt feelings and the same people no longer ask me to do things they know I don’t have time to or don’t want to do.

It’s not always a bad thing to say no and it’s also not always easy. In the way we just discussed, it is a necessary piece of self respect.

Time is our most valuable asset. We can make the most of our time and have good quality relationships with the people in our lives. That starts with good communication, love and respect we should have for one another and ourselves.

How can we expect anyone to understand the words we never say?

Read:

◦ Proverbs 15: 1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but hard words stir up anger.”

◦ Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

◦ Galatians 6:8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

3 Questions:

1. Can you think of a time when you miscalculated someone else’s availability because you didn’t understand their schedule or something else they had going on?

2. How did you overcome that?

3. What could have been done differently for you to have more reasonable expectations?

Imprints

We all have scars no one can see
Some bind our wings
Some set us free
They can be born of love or hate
A needed lift
A burdensome weight
Imprints that only the heart can feel
Some may hurt
Some may heal
All to each is a lesson learned
of how love conquers
and some bridges best burned -JW Lynn

There are people who make your life rich and others who take pieces of you. Both are necessary. I’ve had a fair share of both that have landed on my path and each one of them gave me experience and wisdom.

As woman, sometimes we feel if we declutter our house or reorganize a room that it will declutter our lives and somehow add order to everything. I know you can relate! So, I decided it was time to go through my barns and storage and eliminate as much as I could. “It’s time to become a minimalist,” I said. This was going to fix it all. Right? Nope. But somehow detaching myself from so many things felt freeing. I had so many things sitting in containers serving absolutely no purpose. “Maybe someday…” No. “I may need…” Nope! It’s been there for ten years and I haven’t needed it so it’s time to go!

As I was sorting through everything, I found letters and pictures from my past and was taken to a place I never wanted to revisit. I could feel the old insecurities within me. All the pain and fear brought right to the surface. Why did I save this? Then I found an old journal from seventh grade. This journal was something I shared with my teacher- we’d exchange the journal to take turns writing and responding. This was a safe place for me. She became someone I trusted and I was able to release a lot of pain to her. She pointed to God on several occasions, quoting several verses that applied to specific situations. At that time, I paid no mind to that.

Twenty years later, as I sit reading this journal, I begin to recall a lot that’s been forgotten. I needed that outlet more than she knew. She offered great advice and best practices I was able to use at home and at school while interacting with friends and family. God always has placed just the right people in my life at just the right time.

In one entry she wrote: “Conceive– think about what you want to change. Including the people you want in your life. Believe– start acting the part, as if the transformation is complete. Keep praying and trust God. Achieve– your thoughts and prayers become your reality.”

And with that, she left an imprint on my life.

Reading this journal and the verses she wrote for me, showed me something I didn’t see at thirteen years old. I wasn’t meant to see it then. It was something I needed today to release a pain body that I buried deep within. God has given us authority to talk to people about Him to help pull them from darkness. One woman acted out of love and obedience and the imprint she left was one that gave me peace in a place I least expected- sitting on my living room floor, going back to a place of darkness, finding this journal, reading the verses, God spoke and I listened then everything came together.

Today I’m equipped with experience, pain, forgiveness and authority. I was meant to find that journal because I needed it now. And now it’s my turn to extend myself to others, sharing pieces of me to water their seeds. When God places something in front of you, make a move.

Whatever it means for you, extend yourself. There just might be that one person who needs it.

Read:

Romans 5:3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25: not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

3 Questions:

1. Who in your life has made a difference?

2. How can you extend yourself to share your gift(s) or calling today?

3. What experiences have you learned from that could help others?

Time for God by Debra Baker

It seems like too many people never have enough time. There are always so many things to do and never enough time to do them. How many times have we said those words? Yet, somehow we always have time for television, to read the newspaper or a book from the best sellers list. When and where do we fit God into our busy lives? Do we try to put God into a tiny slice of our day? Are we trying to put Him in a box and shove Him under the bed or in the back of the closet; only to be brought out when we need Him? A loved one is taken; you or a loved one becomes very sick; you’ve lost your job. Do we only call on God when we need Him, when we hurt, or are down and out? Are we putting material things, hobbies, our jobs, and certain people over God? I think it’s likely God is frowning and very unhappy with many of us. I’m ashamed to say, I’m guilty of some of the things mentioned. I hope God’s not done with me yet. When I stand before Him, I don’t want to hang my head and beg His forgiveness for not making time for Him. I don’t want to say that my hobbies, television shows, or anything else was more important than you, Lord.

When we cry out to the Lord to help us or give us something we want, we want it right now! God doesn’t always answer prayers that way. Maybe there are times He feels the same toward us. “Sorry, I just don’t have time for you right now.” I’m not saying that He thinks that way, but who could blame Him if He did? To treat our Lord in this manner is a very scary thing to do. He deserves our love, respect, and maybe all of our time. We should try to interweave God in everything we do.

Please Lord forgive me for wasting your time because time, like everything else, belongs to You. May you always be number one and at the top of my list. When I take my last breath, and my time is up, here on Earth, may the good Lord give me a big hug and say, “Good job your time was well spent!”

“We should try to interweave God in everything we do.

Read:

Colossians 3:2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth

James 4:8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

Status & Things

Time is our most valuable asset. Something so simple and offers so much. We spend money then make more, but time we spend and never get it back.

I worked in a position once where I felt my title somewhat defined me. I was ready to continue climbing to the top. If only I could get that time back… My weeks were never ending from 60 hours in the office then remote access from home. I don’t remember how many times I said, “I’m busy,” when one of of my children would come to get my attention. I honestly believed that what I was doing was important enough for that to be okay.

For me, it was never about money more than it was about proving something to myself and other people. You know what I realized about job titles? That unless you’re chief ice cream maker, no one really cares what your job title is. 

After ten years, something changed inside of me and it became heavy on my heart that I needed to find something else that allowed more time at home and much less at work. It was time to reconnect with God and be available to my children (Psalm 32:8). I knew what I felt was God talking but I didn’t listen because my pride was fierce. How could I walk away from all that I built and worked so hard for? Or even worse, take a lower ranked position?! What would people think? How would I feel about myself? As I walked in disobedience, indifference, and pride, I was given every opportunity to make a move before God did. One morning, I got in my car to drive to work and had a crash that changed the course of my life (Jeremiah 17:5). It was a painful experience both physically and emotionally but now I call it the “blessing on County Line Road.” So much good has bloomed from the seeds planted that day. “You turn mourning to dancing, you give beauty for ashes..” (hint on this weeks song on Worship Wednesday). 

So many of us are trying to collect as much as our finances will allow or pushing to become something we’re not called to do. We have this “me, me, me” mindset and it’s not serving anyone but YOU. We have to stop looking and start seeing. Emotions follow motion. If we really want meaningful change, we have to embrace discomfort, set our fears aside, and respond to God when He calls. That means walking away from things that do not serve Him or your family. If it’s God led, it’s a calling not a job and at that point it’s with PURPOSE. Trust that God will provide. “I am armored, insulated with a deep seeded conviction.” (Pastor Reggie Osborne)

Our status in this world is more important than it ever should be and it’s not pleasing to God. Sometimes it takes recurring disappointments to notice how temporary things are. We will always outgrow things and want to buy more. Money and title is not a personality trait (Proverbs 15:16). The question is, how long will you be in the driver seat until you reach County Line Road? 

Proverbs 15:16 (NIV) Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. 

Jeremiah 17:5 (NIV) This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

Psalm 32:8 (NIV) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

3 Questions:

1) What takes up most of your time during a typical week?

2) After reading Psalm 32:8, when was a time you recall when this verse came to life?

3) Have you ever felt called to something?

Cinderella

Cinderella’s story is one we all know very well. Cinderella was unwanted, yet still offered love and kindness (Matthew 5:44). She was never alone in her isolation with her creature friends who always had her back (Deuteronomy 31:8). She was transformed by her Godmother to be given a chance for a new life (2 Corinthians 5:17) that led her to her handsome prince who pursued her (Genesis 3:9) at all cost (Romans 5:8).

Now, let’s translate:

We, who are unwanted and wounded from neglect and pain, from the people who were supposed to love us, don’t have to be alone in isolation because there’s a community for us, if we choose. We can be transformed by God if we give our life to Him so that He and He alone can change our circumstances. In this life we are pursued by Jesus who doesn’t give up.. regardless the cost. The ultimate cost.

The shoe fits, so put on your glass slippers and come to the eternal ball!

Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,

Deuteronomy 31:8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Genesis 3:9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

3 Questions:

1) Do you ever feel alone and isolated? What triggers those moments?

2) Name a few, besides God, who have your back.

3) What holds you back from surrendering all of your pain to Jesus? As we see in Genesis 3:9 and Romans 5:8 (only to mention a couple), God wants us to press into Him and has given His life to make a way. Why do we hold back?

5 Ways to Get Closer to God

We’re busier than ever but we can make time for things that are important. Consider the things that took up your time last week or what’s on the agenda for this week. Life gets in the way, but being aware of how we’re using our time will help us become more intentional. I have added a list of five very useful tools that help me on my busiest days and with 6 kids on the go, in the car, sitting at soccer practice, and more!

1. Worship music- The lyrics get stuck in your head and are usually words that continue to encourage you throughout the day.

2. Journaling- This is also a form of prayer and very helpful to those learning how to talk to God. Take the time to think about what you want and write down questions you need Him to answer. Praise Him by expressing gratitude.

3. Pray- Just talk to your Father. Talk the way you talk to a friend. (shower or driving)

4. Podcast or audio books – If this peaks your interest, driving becomes something you look forward to!

5. Bible app and right here at momsandfaith.com for short devotionals – The Bible app has it all! Short devotional plans for every topic you can think of, convenience, audio and video options too, verse of the day, and community -add your friends and support each other or invite them to complete a devotional together.

Read:

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded

1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

3 Questions:

1. What obstacles do you face with time?

2. Are there any areas in your life that God isn’t involved in? Anything that is heavy or difficult? (Read Philippians 4:6-7)

3. Your kids are grown and moving out- What do you expect from them? How much time do you expect they give to you and in what ways (call, text, visits)?

Worrier or Warrior

As parents, we worry daily and feel it’s justified because we manage so many moving parts. Our responsibilities are never-ending so why not adapt to worry less? What if we could trust God more? Worry is a learned behavior, therefore we can UNLEARN it, right? We aren’t born worrying. When you were a child, do you remember worrying about where the meals came from or how the mortgage was getting paid? As children, we trusted our parents to provide and it’s the same concept with how we trust God, our father. God provides everything we need! As a matter of fact, if you don’t have it right now, you don’t need it. Worry is simply unreasonable for a believer in Christ. Look all around you.

If worry is a learned behavior, does this mean our children could learn this from us? Raising our children is part of our calling. How can we live by example to show our children what it looks like to truly trust our Father? Our kids are observing our worry but they also see what we trust in and what is safe.

“You trust Jesus for your salvation but not every day worries? He’s getting you out of hell and into heaven. Your eternal punishment is paid for- and we trust that. But we can’t trust Him for smaller issues?” Dr. Jeremy McGarity

Read (NIV):

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Matthew 6:30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you- you of little faith?

Questions:

  1. What are your worries?
  2. Do you remember anyone worrying when you were a child? What did that look like to you?
  3. What can you start, stop and/or continue today to start unlearning worry?

Umbrella Stroller

My husband and I took our children on a family vacation and it felt more like work than a vacation. The packing, alone, was extreme. The sunny days began and ended with kids throwing fits while the baby was crying, sand everywhere, constant stopping to change diapers and make bottles, everyone waking the baby, one kid puking, the smell of wet bathing suites from the night before, and sunburns on top of sunburns. Sound fun?

We packed our Honda Pilot full and didn’t have room to pack our stroller so, with limited space, we planned to purchase an umbrella stroller when we arrived. The back breaking walks with a baby carrier sent us on a desperate search for this umbrella stroller. We checked every possibility, visited the same store twice and even purchased one online for pickup only to find it was for a baby doll! How is it so hard to find such an item? I was on a mission and wasn’t going to stop until I found one.

On the last day we spent on the beach, I sat in my beach chair, holding my sleeping baby in the shade, listening to waves as I watched my husband and kids disappear in the undulating, salty waves. It was in the quiet of this moment, alone with my thoughts, when I heard the essence inside of me loud and clear. I saw all of this chaos was beautiful. These little people with big hearts and beautiful souls were brought here for an adventure. If I’m stressed over locating a stroller and trying to find a moment of non-existent peace, that becomes a part of the experience. It was time to be present and fully insert myself into this memory.

Stop looking for things that aren’t there, having unreasonable expectations and lean on each other because your family is your team. Stop wasting so much time looking for an umbrella stroller and see what God has put right in front of you. As moms, we carry the weight, alternate and delegate.

Read:

Ecclesiastes 4:9

Proverbs 27:17

Answer:

  1. What is one thing you could give less of your attention? Something that shouldn’t be taking so much time?
  2. After reading Ecclesiastes 4:9, who is your right hand? Who can you count on to lighten your load?
  3. What does it mean to you to be ‘present?’

Regrets

So much of my life has been spent worrying about my past choices and how I wish I could somehow change them. So many days I have wasted with these thoughts, or passed up opportunities with the assumption that I was not enough or felt condemnation in some way- because I was a teen mom, or divorced.. more than once.

We have to own the choices we have made if we want to move forward because they aren’t going away. Embrace these experiences as they have become part of who we are today. It’s hard to let go of regret and shame, I know. I also know that we choose to see or not to see the beauty that surrounds us. There are blessings in the outcome! We have to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility for ourselves. It’s time to let go and let God! Forgive yourself! You deserve it. We have to choose to give it to God.

The answers are within each of us. Read Isaiah chapter 43

Highlight: (NIV) Isaiah 43:18 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.

3 Questions:

  1. What do you want to let go of? Or what you want to let go of you?
  2. How does Isaiah 43:19-20 speak to you?
  3. What blessings are in your life now that may not be if your regrets never took place?

Intention

For me, almost every major transformation took place only after I made it through the mud. We all have to make hard decisions and the right answer is not always clear. It’s a lot of hard work to push our egos down and put God in charge. The enemy will use our ego to lead us astray. It’s important we recognize our intentions to see if our choices are God led or ego led.

Often we face challenges we don’t invite into our lives and still end up better, stronger or more resilient in the end. Mud first then transformation. Push through the discomfort and trust God. Knowing He is on this journey with us, what is there to fear? We can honor God by pushing through the discomfort and being obedient to the things he sits in front of us.

Read: Matthew 8:23-27; Psalm 23:4; Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 27:1-4

3 Questions:

  1. What are some hard decisions you have had to make?
  2. What were your intentions when making the call?
  3. Matthew 8:23-27 – How can you relate to these verses?