How to Line Up Release with Reality

I’m lying in bed this morning, and my brain is running.

You know, that thing we do when the day behind us hasn’t resolved all its problems, and we still feel an impasse ahead? As in, an impossible one?

I’m telling my heart this morning that God is big, and He can do what I can’t do. Truth be told, I’ve always known that, and now I’m forced to live as if I know it.

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I’m not sure why I think that stewing about something would ever solve anything.

All it does it tense my shoulders, carve lines into my forehead, and bring a down-spirit into the atmosphere.

I’m slowly learning to let go.

The impossible is made possible by a God who delights in the impasse because He gets to show his strength.

Ever hand a jar with a stubborn lid to a guy with muscle? See that twinkle in his eye as he twists it with ease and your jaw drops?

You tried your hardest to open it, and finally, in frustration, you handed it over. See that phrase, handed it over?

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Release doesn’t mean turning a blind eye. How can you release a problem whose existence you are in denial of?

Release means you face your giant head on and realize its ability to destroy your peace. You are fully aware of its ugliness—so aware, in fact, that you know it’s too big for you to handle.

Because you own it, you also get to release it. You hand it over because your shoulders weren’t meant to carry it, and if you do, you’ll end up stooped long before your years.

Release doesn’t mean turning a blind eye. Rather, you can only release when you open your eyes to acknowledge your situation and see the need for supernatural help.

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We get confused on this one. Just as we mistake trust for forgiveness, we mistake release for reality. Christ would have us walk in truth.

In owning reality, we get to experience the rest of release.

Sister-soul, today—own your problem fully. Then, because it’s too big for you to handle, release it fully into the hand of God who delights in the impossible.

Find your peace, your joy, your grace, today. Christ gifts you with all of these while He works on what concerns you. Your work is over, except that which springs of faith, and rest.

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Relax in His hands—you are well-cared for because your deepest care is given from above rather than from around you. Nothing can stop the inflow of heaven into your soul.

When Moms Fear Failure

Oh, mamas. How many of us are afraid that if we don’t do everything well enough, things (or people) will fail and we will be at fault?

Anything that keeps us in a grip of fear over our own performance becomes an idol.

We fear our kids not loving the Lord, and the thought makes our hearts stop. We fear not being the “perfect” wife, and causing our marriages to struggle or fail.

 

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What about knowing that because of Christ, we are safe even if we or our loved ones were to mess up? We strive so hard we make life hard.

We deny needs because owning them shatters our fantasy bubble. We refuse reality because we base our identity on the goodness of ourselves rather than God’s goodness toward us.

Anytime we need something to prove our worth, we do not see our value.

 

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Anytime we need something to prove our competence, we are not truly confident.

Anytime we get our sense of worth from things around us flowing well, we are not truly whole. We can not gain true identity from ourselves or others (even our husbands or kids), but from Christ’s love and grace for all of us.

Living this way will enable us to give love and grace to others as well. We can only give what we first receive.

 

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We will never be at rest if we think our rest is contingent on something or someone else—even if  God does want us to have that good thing.

We need to let go of our fear, our works, our idols—and worship the God Who loves us even if we were to fail drastically. Only then will our life be graced with true peace and the resulting good fruit.

Today, we get to cease striving so hard for the good thing we want, and sink into Goodness Himself. Life will become a flow of peace, a grace given, a rest earned by Christ.

When our families are no longer our greatest life, we are able to extend True Life to our families.

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2

Allow the Lord to give you, His beloved, sleep!

 

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The TruthBytes app is now available in the App Store! ALSO, thanks to a very generous sponsor, TruthBytes is now completely free for everyone! We are so excited this has become possible.
Our heart is to encourage busy Moms in the very best way possible and we feel like these two changes will help us do it better! ~Stefani Stolztfus

When Life Spits in Your Face, and You Trust Anyway…..

I’m thinking of the brave father who listened in when God asked him to sacrifice his dearest earthly treasure.

I’m thinking of how he leaned in and absorbed the words of God when his natural flesh cried everything contradictory.

Of how he obeyed when God’s command seemed to contradict God’s promise.

Abraham, the father of faith. He wasn’t always perfect, and he was cowardly enough to put his wife in a place of extreme vulnerability because he was afraid.

Sarai was beautiful enough to grab the attention of every man in town. And Abraham wondered if the king would have him killed so he could have one more beautiful woman in his harem.

The father of faith succumbed to his fear and told his lovely wife to lie. Then, he allowed her to be taken to the king’s palace.

The father of faith succumbed to his fear, because he wanted to save his own skin. But, this is not what he’s known for.

Down through the ages, Abraham’s faith has been held as an example because when rubber met the road, he obeyed at all costs.

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He waited thirty years for God’s promise of a son to be fulfilled. Thirty years. Thirty years feels like a life-time, and at thirty years of age, many feel as if God failed them if desires and promises remain unmet. But Abraham waited thirty years for a single promise, then turned around and was ready to sacrifice it all.

He didn’t ask God why. He didn’t remind God of His promise to give him a heritage so great it was likened to the sand of the sea. All he did was walk, and trust, build the altar, and raise the knife.

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His faith showed through his obedience. This, my friends, is why he was called the father of faith. If he hadn’t obeyed, his faith would have been void. And today, if we don’t obey, our faith is of no effect.

Friend, what treasure is God asking you to sacrifice today? Of what are you afraid?

Abraham raised his hand to slay his only son, and the angel of God cried out to stop him. Abraham gratefully put down his knife and spotted the lamb stuck in the bush. He had told Isaac that God would provide a lamb for their sacrifice as they trudged up the mountain.

I think he knew, deep down. With no visible proof, with everything (including God’s direct order) seeming to contradict the promise, he knew, by faith, that things would come full circle.

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He had nothing to go by, but he knew God, and He knew God’s heart, and he trusted what he knew by faith more than what he saw with his eyes.

He knew that God is good.

Friends, when we take hold of grace, but don’t follow with obedience, our faith is vain. When we truly believe, we obey, and when we obey, God reigns.

Hear this, we don’t truly believe if we don’t have the courage to live our faith. And if something’s worth living for, it’s worth dying for—and we don’t get to choose what we live and die for, because God has us, and He has the world, and He masters all of it.

Including our lives. Our sometimes messed-up lives. 

When you believe this, you’ll see that out of every mess in your life comes a message for your life.

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You may be afraid enough to want to save your skin today. You may have an order from your saving Christ that seems to deny you access to the things dearest to your heart. And you’ll obey, because when you accept God’s grace, you also embrace His Lordship.

You’ll make mistakes, but in the end, you’ll also be known as a woman of faith—because you believed God’s goodness when life seemed to defy it and spit in your face, instead.

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You followed through when life seemed to laugh at you, and the thing you clung to so tightly crumbled right out of your hands.

Still, you’ll be a woman of faith. Rubber will meet the road, and you’ll follow God with a yes. In turn, His promises will be, to your heart, yes, and yes.

He has overcome the world, your world, and He says to you, “Be of good cheer. If I have overcome the entire world, I’ve certainly overcome the trial in your life, today. Overcome it, with ME.” 

Trade Real Living for an Alternate Screen Life?

Everyone’s on their phones,” I mused as I stood in line at the check-out counter. “I wonder how it must have been a few decades ago when people had no phones to fill every spare minute. Did they actually talk to each other?”

The next day one of my kids says, “Mom, you’re on your phone so much of the time.”

Ack. He’s right. My first i-phone was a great luxury compared to the small phones I’d always owned previously. I love people, and it’s a great way to stay in touch with those I love the world over.

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It’s also a great way to loose touch with those I love in my own house. In my small town. In the line at the grocery store and post office.

Just last week I navigated snowy roads with a rented car and four kids, twisting through curvy roads to a place in Ohio I’d never been. I was so grateful for Google maps as I crept along, holding my breath as we threatened to slip. In that moment, my phone was nothing short of goodness.

But hey. If I’m consumed by this good thing, I actually fall short of goodness consuming me.

Because it’s more important to give people your undivided attention than your unlimited time. Where ever you are, be all there.

It’s more important to make time for your friends than to take even more hours for your favorite show.

More important to invite people into your home than to sit in your home with your mind out of it completely.

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People rush home from Sunday services with more thought of the screen than they have of the hurting lives surrounding them all morning.

Everywhere, there are silent people begging for an ear. But they are silent, and it is up to us to find them, love them, live life with them.

And when you’re taken with screen life, you’re likely discouraged with your own very real life. Few things in real life flash as quickly and engagingly as a film.

And few women look as beautiful as the actress. Few men as buff and handsome as the actors—and few of them as “perfect” when it comes to loving a woman.

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Screen life can make forbidden love look sweet, and committed love look sour.

It can feed attitudes more than refine them, and cause us to be restless more than resourceful.

My little boy’s screen time can pick momentum ever so slightly, and before I know it, I have a child on my hands who wants nothing but to sit and stare rather than run and do.

Addictions come in many forms, and we have one on our hands. We are trading many good things in real life for a glorified, unrealistic picture flashing before us so quickly it sucks us right out of pursuing good for our own lives.

Depression and constant screen hovering often seems to go hand in hand. When there’s little to your own life, you want to find it in some one else’s. What would God want to give you if you pursued your own good thing, instead?

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The screen also offers alternative sex in the form of pornography. Ladies, don’t be confused—the grief you feel over this one is justified because what happens with a stranger on a screen is a hidden form of cheating. Your heart says so because it is not more right to cheat in hidden places on a screen,  than to cheat with a person in front of you. 

The screen steals time away from couples and offers an easy emotional or sexual fix where there’s no work involved—just a high dose of “feel good”. And then the repercussions of emotional distance, hypocrisy, and betrayal with your own spouse.

And with social media spouses can reach out to anyone, at anytime, for a fix for their loneliness rather than ask themselves why they’re in a lonely place. What do your relationships need, and why are they suffering?

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We are in an epidemic, but there’s a cure. Use wisdom. Say no before it happens. Refuse to engage on your phone in ways you wouldn’t engage in person (especially right in front of your spouse).

If you have to hide anything, it’s not worth doing. If you have to hide your phone, it’s not worth having.

If you hide your own life in exchange for watching anothers, try to make your own worth living instead!

Look at the one face next to you rather than the thousand faces smiling at you across the globe. That smiling face wasn’t happy all day, either. Judging relationships by on-line perfection is unfair and damaging to your own very real, struggling spouse, kids, and life.

Look into their faces, and look away from the screen. They will love you for it!

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Pick up a book and fill your soul. Invite a friend over and create space for relationships. Say no to constant texting of the opposite sex so your heart is ready to engage fully with your spouse. Find your deepest needs met there, and with God.

The world is on a major hunt for a cure for cancer, but cancer is not the only epidemic. How will we fight this alternate reality so we can create a better reality for our own lives?

How Bethlehem’s Babe Brings Love in When We Can’t Keep Life Out…….

It’s Christmas Day, and my extended family is cozied up in a lodge nestled in the rolling hills of Ohio, spending time together before my youngest brother’s wedding to his long-loved girl.

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I’ve just had a fifth cup of hot tea, coffee, or chai for the day, and am settled at the table writing while my sisters paint—because water colors drive me crazy while weaving words delights me to the core.

Dad and I just had a chat on the couch. He’s sixty years old, and life has traveled at a breathtaking pace while he’s done his best with it all. I look at the faces of each family member as we play ice-breaker.

The game is fun and has us rolling in laughter. I get to choose the questions, and I pose personal ones to that brother in law who is quiet and composed. We shake with laughter when he smirks an uncomfortable grin before he answers.

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I also pose more thoughtful, difficult questions. “What was the hardest day of your life, and why?” I read the question aloud to my father.

Even as I asked, I knew what he’d say.

The day Peter died,” he said.

Ah, yes. Of course. That day was a living nightmare, and it didn’t stop for awhile, not until his body finally appeared on the water’s surface three days later.

It didn’t even stop then. His refrigerator still had his butter dish to be emptied, his phone still rang, and we were just flat out heart broken.

This Christmas, we’re smiling again. Life has been unexpectedly difficult in some aspects, but here we are on Christmas Day, deeply in love with Bethlehem’s Babe in the God-form of Jesus Christ.

Because when we pause enough to rest on the Father’s chest, we get to feel the rise and fall of His heart. His heart.

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Our own hearts may tell us otherwise, that God doesn’t see and doesn’t love and doesn’t care—and we won’t be okay because some aspects of life aren’t okay, and we don’t know how to fix them.

My sister leans in as she tells me how raising teens takes every ounce of her energy and she’s just a little drained. The other sister’s heart is in Greece with her loved refugee women, the ones she’s keeping safe from sex traffickers.

I got to voice chat with the girl who was taken into prostitution at an early age. She’s smiling, and safe. No matter that life robbed her of goodness—she’s fallen in love with the Ultimate Gift, and she’s smiling. 

She’s smiling more than some women I know who have it all, but aren’t grateful and alive with purpose. Because some of us hide behind dishes and laundry while we allow our minds to be dull and void of vision—all in the name of Godly womanhood.

And sometimes, we refuse to rest until we’re stripped bare and forced to reach inward to the Spirit of Christ and the strength He offers.  We know true rest when we cease trying on our own. 

More than circumstantial change, we get to be changed by a loving God.

We get to hear God’s whisper more than the roar of our circumstance. And the gift of Christmas is that we don’t have to do things we can’t do. We get to rest, to end the struggle, to simply do what He prompts us to do and leave the load for Him to carry.

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Even if the load is raising kids and we fear making mistakes. Even that load, we get to cast aside while we choose peace.

We let go of our idea of perfection in order to be perfected in love. When we do so, Perfect Love begins to shape our lives, our mothering, and all we do.

We get to shatter our past and burn our reasons not to live fully in grace, today.

We don’t have to—we get to. When our flesh isn’t coddled temporarily, we still get to be embraced eternally.

I’m tucking my boy into bed, wishing just a tad that all of life, for everyone, could be as warm, safe, and cozy as this lodge on Christmas Day. But we can’t avoid the duties of life. And when we can’t keep life out, we get to bring Love into that life. 

Bethlehem’s Babe is the Ultimate Gift, and He will go with us, everywhere, while we follow Him, anywhere.

TruthBytes for Moms

Hey, Moms! It’s Christmas season and we are about to take our family of six on a wild trip east to visit family and attend my brother’s wedding. In the hub-bub of daily family life, I’m thinking some thoughts on encouragement and kids, what training looks like, etc.

I also want to let you know that there’s a new app for moms, called Daily Truthbytes for Moms. My friend, Stefani Stoltzfus, has recently founded it and asked me to join her and others to provide a devotional for mothers each day, accessible with a quick tap of your fingers, anywhere and everywhere. This is great because it’s hard to open a book every time, or carry one with you when you need a Source not your own!  You can find her  app on Google Play, Facebook, or Etsy.

Daily TruthBytes for Moms

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Perhaps giving and receiving the riches of His grace looks a little more like encouragement to those around us rather than constant disapproval and condemnation.

The true definition of training up a child looks more like training an athlete for a marathon than scolding and disciplining like a dictator. Training for obedience, respect, hard work, and excellence in a positive style versus a scolding, condemning style can turn a home around.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence. (Ephesians 1:7-8)

The grace of Christ is so rich toward me, and sometimes I don’t feel it when I’m condemning everyone around me. I get inward focused and hurt when I should be able to look with compassion on whoever has the need. Then, I crack down hard because I hate the hard tossed my way. I turn into a hard thing because of the hard things, and I don’t actually extend grace while I bark my way through the day demanding others to extend grace to me.

At the end of the day, let’s make sure we forgive our families for the rough day. Let’s release them, and wake them with positive vibes the next morning rather than give another scolding from yesterday’s mess. Let’s embrace them, hug them, and warm them with encouragement.

Perhaps go to the problem child with an expression of acceptance, something like, “I know you’re the perfect child for me, and God knew exactly who I needed in my life. God also knew you needed me for a mother.”

God knows, mama. He landed that child in your womb and on your lap, not so you could be destroyed, but so you could grow better.

Speak it out, life for you and him. Reach it out, that hand extended to him. Hold it out, your offer of walking side by side toward better things.

 

Cupcakes and Culture

Cupcakes, laughter, and serious talks filled the evening of our girl’s group, after which my co-teacher and I pondered things of culture and how our group of girls was affected by them. “Culture is like a rushing wall of water all around us, and we need to stand tall while it rushes about us and nearly over the top of our heads,” I had shared with her.

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She nodded in agreement. We are here for more than to have fun and allow daughters of the King to be blithely swallowed up by their surroundings. Because Christians are here to permeate culture rather than allow culture determine what we do and who we are.

I’ve long been intrigued with ambassadors. Leaving one’s own country to live in another for the sake of your own, must be a challenging but fulfilling occupation.

Ambassadors are fulfilled in a sense of greater purpose than walking the streets and enjoying a house in a certain country. They are there to speak out for their country.

You’d be there for a reason greater than seeing sights and enjoying ethnic foods. You’d even be there for more than to love on native folk. You’d be there for your own country’s sake, and everything you did would have a mission to benefit your country.

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I can’t speak up for anything lately without being told I’m judgmental,” I shared with my friend. “It’s as if the truth of God is wiped off the slate because all people want is the mercy of God.”

We fail to see that the truths God asks us to hold on to are a display of His mercy, that His no is not deprivation, but an invitation to greater blessing.

That when He asks us to put down our phones, He’s not asking us to shut out relationships; He’s inviting us to embrace the love right before us, to be engaged where we are because we miss out when we don’t do so.

That when He asks us to hold on to “old-fashioned” views of marriage and sexuality, He’s not unloving—He’s calling our land to a solid foundation of love that will bless this culture rather than imbalance it.

That when He prompts us to reduce our screen time, He’s inviting us to a life of good rather than staring at a screen with the good (or not so good) things of another’s life, leaving our own destitute of fulfillment. Because we won’t be as rich from watching a life as we’ll be from fully living a life.

 

That when He asks women to honor their husbands, He’s inviting them to a place of honor for their own hearts, a place where they can be at rest and receive the care they  end up craving even when they try to prove themselves equally capable.

Do we remember this, His way is perfect, His word is tried, that every good gift is from a good Father Who lives in the light and longs to bring us to life?

The truths of God lead us to be changed by the mercy and grace of God.

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Cheap grace lulls us to sleep; real grace leads us to vibrant life. Cheap grace gives hand-outs; real grace holds a hand.

We are ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom, and less we be distracted from our mission and lose our calling, let’s keep referring back to the heart of God so we can be a true representation of His heart!