How is Simple Living Biblical?

I’m baaackkk…

Before I get into the topic of this post I just want to apologize for my absence on the blog for the past couple of months. There were various reasons why, but it ultimately boils down to being busy over the past few months and not having the motivation to get a post uploaded. I mean, it has taken me at least a week and a half just to finish this post. I am going to try my best to refocus my energy to the blog and get posts up more frequently. So, now with that out of the way, let’s move on to the topic of the day.

Over the past few years our family has been trying to live a more minimalistic and simplistic life. Clutter stresses me out and I find a somewhat minimal home much more calming. I’ve heard the term “cozy minimalist” and I feel like that is our style. My home is fairly minimalist, but it is not stark and cold. I do have some decor items and extra pillows. I want my home to be comfortable, cozy, and like a family actually lives there.

I first discovered minimalism two to three years ago via Pinterest, where all great discoveries are made. My husband and I were already pretty tidy people and I didn’t feel like we had a lot of stuff until we moved after having our daughter. Our 1900 sq.ft. home filled up the largest truck the moving company had plus we had stuff in our car. I couldn’t believe how much stuff we had. It was pretty embarrassing.

With a baby and two parents working full time the easiest thing to do was quickly get everything unpacked and put away. Once that job was done it didn’t feel like our stuff was overtaking us because we were able to hide it all behind cabinets and closet doors. Plus we were fully renovating our home over the next few years so it was a bit of a mess anyway. Then we had our son and it was all just too much. When I came across minimalism and started reading more about it I was intrigued and it seemed to fit our family’s values.

I immediately began de-cluttering every room and every closet. The first stop was the playroom and the kid’s toys. Then I moved on to my bookcases. I was a librarian before staying at home after having my son, so this one was, and still is, hard for me. Honestly, there are some books on the shelves I haven’t read, but if I truly want to read them, then I just can’t let them go. I did get rid of three shelves worth of books though. So, over the next month every space in my house was touched and many trips were made to donate items.

The funny thing is though, de-cluttering is never over. I am almost always finding things I can get rid, especially toys. Every few months I ask my kids, who are now 5 and 3, to go through their toys and find some things they no longer want and that they would like to donate. They almost always find at least a few things they are ready to let go of and are happy to give to someone else.

What I have discovered over the past year is that simple living actually has basis in the Bible. I am always amazed that the Bible has something to say about every aspect of our lives and teaches us so many good lessons (even for those who aren’t Christians). I thought I would share ways that the Bible encourages us to live simply and why it is important to do so in our walk with Christ.

  1. Our possessions are not ours. I am sure someone just read that and said, “Huh? I paid for them, they are mine.” Here is the thing though, everything on Earth is God’s. We are just stewarding these items until we are gone from Earth. In Timothy 6:6-9 we are remind that we were brought into the world with nothing and to be content with few material possessions is an achievement. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
  2. We need to be able to tithe and be charitable. I am going to be blunt here. It is hard to have money to tithe and donate to charities if you are living paycheck to paycheck or you are in massive debt to support a lifestyle that is above your means. We have all made unnecessary and extravagant purchases. However, if you are consistently making unnecessary purchases that you can’t truly afford you are stuck in a habit and you aren’t going to be able to make the sacrifice of taking part of your paycheck and spending it on someone/something other than yourself and things that serve you. God calls us to tithe and to be generous throughout the Bible, but I love what is said in Proverbs 11: 24-25. “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
  3. We should be focused on God and people, not stuff. There are many Bible verses that call for us to not focus solely on our material possessions and money. In John 3:17 we are reminded that to have everything in the world and choosing not to help others is not Godly and not following His path. “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” I know our family has been through many stages on this path. We started off without a lot of money and then through career advances gained more. With all of our abundance we definitely were not tithing and giving at least 10% to church and charities. Over the past three or four months our family has really made this our focus and we give 10% in tithe money to our church and we also donate to charities that speak to us. I’m not going to lie, it is a little hard to see that 10% check each month going out of our home with no immediate benefit for us, but it feels so good to know the money is going to help His kingdom and help those in need. As the famous minimalist Joshua Becker said, “As Christians, we want to become less attached to worldly things and more attached to Godly things.
  4. We shouldn’t be distracted by how the world lives. The Bible calls us to separate ourselves from the world. To live differently and not following what everyone else is doing. We should focus on what the Bible says about how we should live. I think John 2:15-17 sums it up well. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” In the U.S.A. not living to “keep up with the Joneses” is definitely not following the crowd. We are constantly inundated with advertisements telling us we need this product or we deserve that product. Choosing to be intentional about our purchases is following what God wants us to do, not what the world is telling us to do.

Have you ever just sat back and thought about people you have known who are just generally happy people with a zest for life? I feel like those people are not usually the ones who are rich monetarily, but those who are rich spiritually. I want to be content with little, yet also have an abundant life because I am using my life to serve God, my family, and others. Building my relationship with God is taking a lot of work, just like any relationship. I have to focus on what really matters and create the space so that I will have the time to devote to God.

I am looking forward to living even more minimally and generously and helping set on example for my children. The only way they are going to learn how to live in the way God instructs is if they see it modeled at home. Remembering that God calls us to live more simply is a good motivator to keep it up and find ways to do even more. So, if you are struggling to find the motivation to simplify your life and be more generous, hopefully you found some inspiration in this post. Let me know how your journey is going.


Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6: 19-21

Build your Wall

Life man. Life has been getting to me the past few weeks. I know it has been pretty quiet over here, but I am going to try to get back at it.

Yesterday was the last day of my Bible study. I am both invigorated and sad. I am excited to keep making life changes based on what I learned, but I am also sad that I am not going to have the weekly focus on a particular part of God’s word and meeting with my group of women to share. I thought that this week on the blog I would share what I learned through this Bible study and maybe it will encourage you to make the same changes and even do the study yourself. So, here we go. I will try my best to do this study justice.

This Bible study is called Awaken. It is set up in a four topic cycle. There is a study in the fall and one in late winter/early spring. Once you go through the four sessions (so two years worth) you are encouraged to move on to another study because the cycle will start over again. This was my first Awaken session and I will definitely be returning for more. The study used for this session was Kelly Minter’s study Nehemiah. Each week we would meet as an entire group and our leader, Elizabeth, would have a lesson to present to us. Then throughout the week we would work through the book on our own. There were five days worth of readings for the week, so we could have two days free. Each day would be about 20-30 minutes worth of reading and reflecting.

nehemiah

The main thing I can say is that this study was life changing for me. There is no other way to put it. I grew up in the church, accepted Christ as my savior as a child, and was even baptized, but I don’t think I ever truly owned my faith. I never really sat down and examined it and said this is what I want. After going away to college I stopped attending church. I think it was due to several things. I am an introvert and putting myself out there to go to a new church all alone was very unappealing to me. I think my degree path also made me start to question my faith. My husband and I are high school sweethearts who are so intertwined that we usually do things together and follow the same path. So, we didn’t go to church together. However, over the years we both kept feeling like something was missing. The feeling grew stronger and stronger. My husband kept asking me when we were going to start going to church again and I kept putting it off.

Back in the early spring a very special friend invited me to come to her DC class and my husband and I hit the ground running. By going to church we have begun to fill that void in our lives. That feeling that something is missing; that something isn’t quite right no matter how “perfect” your life is. We have really immersed ourselves in God’s word both in church and in our everyday lives. This study has been one of the steps we have taken to get closer to God and it is a step I am so glad I took.

God has been pulling me to come walk closer to him. He has been pulling me to do a better job for my children. He wants me to make my family into a Godly family. To do a better job at teaching them about His will than my family did with me growing up. I want to impact others positively. I want to give myself to others. I was once a girl who wanted a job that helped people. I was once even the girl who had a dream of starting a non-profit one day. That girl got lost for quite awhile. Her voice was always there though, even if it was so quiet I couldn’t really hear it. The Nehemiah study has turned her quiet voice into a roar that will not be silenced.

The Nehemiah study will show you so many things. All of the things God wanted for me were revealed and intensified through this study. It always amuses me that when God wants me to think about something he keeps bringing it up over and over everywhere I look. The nudge by my friend to take this study was His gentle push that led to Him overwhelming me with His truth for me and the path my life needs to take from this point on.

I want to share my main takeaways from the study. I don’t want to reveal too much, because I want you to have the opportunity to do the study on your own and let God place His will for you on your heart without too much influence from me. Everyone will get something different from this study, but I don’t see how anyone would be able to walk away without being influenced to make some changes.

Takeaway #1: How can you secure your “walls?”

The first week  was mainly the background of Nehemiah. If you don’t know, Nehemiah is the one who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem after the Jews came back from exile. This week made me examine how I can secure the “walls” of my home to safeguard my family. I had to think about what I want to secure them against, is there any “rubble” that needs to be cleared away first, and how do I need to fight for my family. We also discussed what makes you weep. This whole study is focusing on what breaks your heart, so we really started looking at what breaks our heart enough that we want to do something about it. Everyone’s heart breaks for something different, so we had to start examining what we really care about. This lesson really showed me that I want to protect my family and give them the armor of God. Now, when I say protect my family, I don’t mean making sure my kids are never hurt or that nothing bad happens to them. That is not realistic and it also doesn’t help them grow in to capable, responsible, well balanced adults. I mean that I want to steer them in the way of Jesus and set them with a foundation in the Lord and his Will.

Takeaway #2: Prayer is truly the answer

Before this study I was a lightweight, an amateur, a rookie, any of those sports analogies you want to use when it came to prayer. The first thing Nehemiah did when he found out about the state of ruin in Jerusalem was to pray to God. And not only did he pray, but he prayed and wept for 4 months about it. In this day and age there aren’t too many people who would have that kind of patience. I learned just how important prayer is and why we need to pray to God. Here’s the thing, we aren’t always going to get our happy ending just because we pray. However, God will eventually lead us to where we need to be through prayer. Thinking about something, talking about something, and worrying about something is not the same as praying about what is on our heart. Our first stop should be prayer. Inspired by the study leader, I have been praying with and for my children every night by their bedside. I tell God why I am glad they are in my family, why He is great, we pray for someone else, I pray for my child for a current situation, and then I pray for their future. It has been very impactful and my children look forward to this prayer time. God commands us to pray (Matthew 6:6) and we should pray continually (1 Thes. 5:17). I am still developing as a prayer warrior, but I am excited by the changes I have already made.

Pray continually. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Takeaway #3: God’s moral will isn’t a dot

Most people probably sit around waiting for God to miraculously tell them what to do with their lives and how to fulfill His will. I know I was one of those people. I kept waiting to figure out what the “right” path was. Which way God wanted me to go. Here is the thing I learned through this study; God’s will is not a specific dot we must hit. Instead it is a big circle. Anything that is within his will is what we should be doing. God’s will is his commands and principals that he revealed through the Bible that teach us how to live out our lives. As long as we are doing something within those teachings we are living his will and that is such a freeing concept. We don’t have to sit around wondering if we are doing the right thing. A fantastic diagram was made to show this concept and all credit goes to our fabulous study leader, Elizabeth Poplin.

God's Moral Will

In the image above the grey square is anything thing we can do with our lives. It is all of the possible choices. The white circle is anything we can do that is in God’s moral will. Basically, anything the Bible says we should do. The dot is what we hope God will tell us to do. The one perfect thing we were made for and is our destiny. What she told us though is that as long as it is in the circle then do it. God’s will for us won’t be a dot, it will be a circle. We are called to do His will and anything that falls within it is therefore doing His will. Find God’s will in everything you do and don’t get stuck on the dot. The truth is that I may never find “my calling,” but I don’t need to get bogged down by that. As long as I live for others and do what God tells me to do that will be enough and will be powerful. “Pointless living is comfortable and miserable. We are not called to pointless living (I can’t remember if this quote was from Elizabeth or if she was quoting someone else).” I know all about being comfortable in my pointless living and also being miserable in it. The fact is that Jesus told us to help others, whether it is a simple gesture for a neighbor across the street or we save orphans in Africa. All kind acts are important and are serving God.

Takeaway #4: Love means sacrifice, always
In America we like to romanticize love. I am guilty of this myself. All those romantic comedies make us think that love is always wonderful and it will complete us. We think that our marriage should always be butterflies and passion. Before having kids we think we will surely be able to raise wonderful kids, spend our mornings making pancakes and playing in the mud. We envision how our love for our kids will overwhelm us and our life will be very nearly perfect. The problem, obviously, is that our optimism is rarely ever fulfilled. I am not saying love is not wonderful. I am happily married to my high school sweetheart for over 11 years now and I have two kids I love more than I could ever imagine. Love is one of the foundations for a life. We need to love others and have others love us. However, love means you must sacrifice. To truly love someone you have to sacrifice something in that love. Moms know all about this. We sacrifice our alone time, clean hair, and sometimes our sanity for brief periods.
Loving others is essential to the Christian faith. And I mean truly loving others. We are called by Jesus to love our neighbors and our neighbors aren’t just the people down the street. It is everyone. We shouldn’t focus more on what we will lose than what we will gain by loving others. What are you willing to give up in order to love and serve others?
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” This quote by Fredrick Buechner says it all. Find a way to help others, love your neighbor, don’t be afraid of failing, and trust in God. We are all able to do God’s will.

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. – Fredrick Buechner
Takeaway #5: Be the right type of influencer to your children
There were so many good quotes about family thrown around during this study. One of my favorites was, “When we live with purpose and on purpose we teach our children to do the same.” The questions really is what kind of person/women/mom do you want to be? This study has really made me think about what kind of a person I am being to the world, what kind of woman I am being to other women, and what kind of mom I am being to my children.
At the last session a guest speaker, Jan Harrison, whose family started With Open Eyes, said that she came from a good family, but she wanted her family to be a Godly family. What a distinction. It isn’t enough to simply be a good family. She also shared Matthew 7:24, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” She said to make sure you build your house, or your family, on a rock. Basically, make God the foundation of your family. The only thing that truly matters is do your kids know Jesus. Did you set them up with that firm foundation that can guide them through their life. We have no control over how our kids will feel about God after they grow up, but establishing their life around God in childhood and teaching them to live God’s will is essential and will set create a foundation they can build their life off of. We must teach our kids to be servants for the lord and for others. One life matters and if we can start our kids off right that one life will reach many others. Our reach will extend much farther than our child.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. – Matthew 7:24
In summary, turn to God and pray for everything and everyone in your life. Make sure you start your kids off in a Godly house and you exemplify following God’s will. To follow God’s will don’t get caught up on a specific thing you should be doing. As long as it is something God says you should do then do it. Finally, love others and love them well. Be willing to sacrifice and don’t be afraid to fail.
I am excited and nervous to continue making changes and growing not only in my faith, but growing in fulfilling God’s will. I know it is going to be hard, but I can’t NOT live this way now. After seeing and hearing everything that has been shared during this study (plus everything else God has shown me over the past few months in other settings) if I don’t change the way I am living then it would be a great tragedy. I want my life to be purposeful and I want my kids to have the best chance to also live purposeful lives and walk with God throughout their lives. And, as Jennie Allen says, “I want to get to heaven out of breath.”
So, what kind of a person do you want to be? Are you going to build your house upon the rock and build your wall for your family? Are you going to give yourself to others? What would all of this look like for you and your family? What are you going to do to fulfill God’s will?

I want to get to heaven out of breath. – Jennie Allen

I’m Not the Mom I Want to Be.

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Yesterday I had to come to terms with something. Yesterday was a very powerful and moving day for me. It brought up so many things I have been thinking and dealing with lately. This realization is something that is heartbreaking, crushing, and defeating. At the same time it is something that inspires and motivates me.

I am not the mom I want to be. That is the honest, blunt truth. Now, this doesn’t mean I am not a good mom. I am a good mom, just like the vast majority of moms. When I say I am not the mom I want to be I mean that I am not the Christian mom I want to be. At least, I am not a good enough Christian mom.

Pretty much every mom I know has thoughts all the time that they are not good enough. Most moms are always striving to be a better mom, or at least wishing they were. This is so normal and it is great that we are trying to be better for our kids. Yesterday though, I really came to terms with the fact that I am just not good enough right now. And, it wasn’t the normal, everyday thoughts. I get those everyday thoughts all the time. I usually push them to the side and say to myself, “You know what? You are a good mom. You are doing great things with your kids and you love them.” This time though I couldn’t push it to the side. The cold, hard truth hit me and wouldn’t release me. It is a good thing it wouldn’t let go because I had to really evaluate who I am not only as a mom, but as a Christian as well. The problem isn’t that I am not a “good mom.” The problem is really that I am not a good enough mom for what I want to be in God’s eyes.

I grew up attending church pretty much every Sunday. That’s just what you do in the South. However, I wouldn’t say that my family was very religious. We didn’t usually pray before meals, there was no family Bible studies, and it wasn’t talked about very much. We made a birthday cake for Jesus each Christmas and we went to church. That is about it. So, for my entire life I have never really spread my faith into all areas of my life. It was mainly just a thing I did on Sundays with occasional prayer scattered in.

I don’t want my kids to grow up in a lukewarm faith home. I am grateful that my parents brought me up in the church, but I want a to have more conversations and actions surrounding the gospel in my home. I need to start some new habits and fully embrace my faith. I need to set a better example for my children so they are able to more fully walk in their own faith. I am generally a nice person. I try to never be rude, always use my manners, I try not to judge others, and I give people the benefit of the doubt. In high school and college I did a good amount of volunteer work. Then, life happened and for some reason I have barely done any volunteer work over the last decade. Maybe I viewed my job as the way I was giving back. In college I even had a dream to start a nonprofit one day. I have often wondered what happened to that girl. If I want to truly follow God’s will I am going to have to make some improvements and go above and beyond the normal, everyday kindness.

I want to be more giving. I want to be more loving. I want to be kinder. I want to be less judgmental. All of these things are not just for my kids, but so that I can have a positive impact on others as well. I want to do more work with people who need it. I want to be less selfish. I want to give more money and more of my time to people. I really want to get to know people and focus more on people instead of things or what cool experience I give my kids next. We need to get to know people. We need to help them and we can’t just sit back and say, “I feel good because I give money to charity.” Charitable giving is great, but your time is much more valuable than your dollars in most situations. I want to not only show my kids how to do all of this, but involve my kids as well.

I want to be possessing and living God’s will so much that it is just rolling off of me. When I walk into a room I want people to instantly know that I am a Christian. People will be able to see God’s love for them through my love, warmth, and giving.

I’m not a good enough Christian mom. I’m not praying enough, having my kids pray enough, or teaching bible lessons at home. Basically, I am not embodying the gospel in everything I do. I am going to set a goal to slowly work on adding these things into our routines. I have a lot of work to do.

This is going to be hard. It might be harder than anything I’ve ever done. There already seems so little time left in the day. I am going to have to give some things up in order to make room for the things I need in my life family’s lives. It is so hard to break lifelong habits and routines. It is so hard to try to force the negative aspects of your  personality to morph into something more positive. Parenting is hard in and of itself, but parenting to God’s will and fully embodying the teachings of the Bible is even more daunting. You have to transform yourself, step out of your comfort zone, and even go against societal norms at times.

Now may the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him. Hebrews 13: 20-21

I will try to share, either through the blog or through my Instagram account, the steps I take to try to achieve these goals. I am sure I will have many failures and successes. I wish I could say that I will go through every moment of this endeavor filled with positivity and joy, but I know myself and as much as I would love to be an optimist, much of the time I am not. So, wish me luck and if you have some time please lift me up in prayers, because I am going to need them.

I am not the mom i want to be

I am Awesome. So Are You.

Let’s face it. Sometimes we don’t feel so awesome. Sometimes the negative thoughts about ourselves have spiraled so far out of control we have a hard time recognizing our positive qualities. I think moms are really hard on ourselves for numerous reasons. We just want to be good moms, but it is so arduous. We want to be as close to perfect as we can and that is just not possible. Social media inundates us with an over abundance of information that makes us feel like we will never be able to measure up. That is one reason why I took an entire month off from social media in September (that is a post for another time) to try to just step back and see how I felt without all of that extra pressure. Let’s just say it was great.

My negative self thoughts go through periods of ebb and flow. There are times when I feel great, I am satisfied with my life and what I am accomplishing. Then a month or so later the negative thoughts creep back in. Right before starting this blog I was in that down cycle and I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of it. I thought I was ready to start working at least part time after staying home for three years, so I started applying for jobs. Guess how many interviews I got. Zero. There was one job that I would’ve probably gotten an interview for, but they contacted me to let me know the hours and it just didn’t work with the time my kids would be in school. I honestly felt like a loser. Before staying at home I would usually at least get an interview. I felt lost and didn’t know what I was supposed to do at this point. I felt like I wasn’t using my talents and that I was wasting my life. The negative thoughts were consuming me and having some undesirable effects on my relationships with my kids and husband.

When I was in the midst of these feelings I had the night that changed me, which I’ve spoken about before. I was at a quarterly women’s worship event called Ember and I just had an overwhelming sense of peace. I pretty instantly came to terms with, and even embraced, staying at home. I just felt like I was doing the right thing and this was the stage of life I am supposed to be in right now. I also felt that I needed to start this blog to share my journey with deepening my faith and sharing my struggles and triumphs as a mother.

Over the past several months I have encountered so many things that remind me that I am worthy and awesome because God loves me and says I am. Whether it has been in church sermons, Sunday school class, Bible study, or even just encountering verses on Instagram, I get almost daily reminders of God’s love for me. One week in church service our pastor let us know that we don’t have to waste energy comparing ourselves to others and wishing we had a better home, body, car, etc. God made each of us to serve a certain purpose. We all have unique gifts and talents to serve him. He loves us no matter what we look like or how much money we have. I think this is so freeing if we truly believe this message.

The negative thoughts still creep in sometimes, but I try to ignore them. Sometimes I even say to myself, “You are awesome because God says you are awesome.” It may seem cheesy, but saying this to myself and knowing that I am worthy really helps me make it through the day when I am struggling and it has been a rough day with my kids.

There are many great verses we can read to help remind us of God’s love. You can also pray these verses on those hard days when nothing seems to go right. Here are a few of my favorites. You’ve probably seen some of these verses so many times they have lost their meaning, but if you really read them and think about them they are so inspiring and moving.

  1. Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever. – Psalm 136:26
  2. God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
  3. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations. – Deuteronomy 7:9
  4. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! – Psalm 36:7
  5. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. – Psalm 86:15
  6. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
    He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

    you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

    – Psalm 23:1-6

  7. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.           – Isaiah 41:10

love of God

Remember, God loves you no matter what. You are awesome. No matter what you go through God is always with you, even when it doesn’t feel like it. He’s got your back.

Do you have any other verses that help you get through a rough time and help you remember God’s love? If so, feel free to share in the comments!

The Devil Works in Not so Mysterious Ways: That Time My Instagram Account was Hacked.

The Devil Works in Not so Mysterious WaysPeople always like to use the phrase, “God works in mysterious ways.” This phrase always seemed funny to me, even if it is accurate some of the time. I think the opposite is true for the Devil. He works in very obvious ways if you just take a moment to step back and think about what is happening. And this ladies and gentleman is exactly what I did when my Instagram Account for Mended Mama was hacked.

To begin this story we need to go back to about two months ago. This is when I first decided I was going to start a blog. I picked a name, created a Facebook page to ensure it was ready to go when the time came, and also created a separate Instagram account just for Mended Mama to secure the name. I did not touch either the Facebook page or the Instagram account for another month. It was still summer and I decided to wait until the kids were in school to start my blog, so the accounts just sat there patiently waiting for my return.

Now, fast forward a month. We are sitting on my living room couch. Both kids were finally in school and I had several free hours to create the blog. After I had fidgeted with the site and got it basically up and running I added some info to my Facebook page and on the Instagram account. I did a few more small things throughout the day until dinner time. I made dinner, we ate, and then we went upstairs to put the kids to bed. I had my phone on me and felt it vibrate. I saw an email from Instagram that said something about the email being changed, but assumed it was from where I had been messing with the account. I was busy trying to get the kids in bed, so I ignored it and went back to pajamas and brushing teeth.

After the kids were in bed I remembered the email and casually pulled the app up. I had several emails from Instagram saying that the email, phone number, and password for my Mended Mama account had all been changed and it was all things I did not recognize. My heart dropped and panic set in. I told my husband that my account had been hacked. I was trying so hard to stay calm, but it had been a ROUGH day with the kids where nothing was going right and this pushed me over the edge. I was so upset for a number of reasons. I had just created the account, which in a way was good because there was only one post that I would potentially lose and no followers yet. I was mainly upset because if I wasn’t able to get the account back I would have to figure out another name and I had been able to get exactly “mendedmama” which fit perfectly with my blog. I didn’t want another name darn it.

I tried to focus and realized the emails contained a link for “if this wasn’t an action taken by you”, but when I clicked it it was invalid. So, as a normal person would, I tried to find a email address, online chat, phone number, something that I could use to contact Instagram with. Nada folks. They make it so difficult to get help and report these problems. For my next idea, as we do nowadays, I went straight to Google for a rescue attempt. I read several articles and the only thing I found helpful is that somewhere after you click “Need Help Logging In” there is supposed to be a report button. I had some trouble finding it because my app did not look like what the articles were describing (and I am sure if I wasn’t hysterical it would’ve been a lot faster), but I eventually found the “report” button and was able to fill out a form with details about the problem I was having. I was happy I was able to report it, but terrified that the hackers were going to change my name or any of a million other things that kept popping into my head. Now the waiting game began.

Instagram support got back to me in about an hour and a half. I was relieved and very surprised they got back to me so quickly. They wanted me to take a photo of myself holding a white piece of paper that had a special code, my full name, and my username. The photo had to show my face and my hands. I quickly filled out the info and had my husband take the photo. That may have been the worst photo ever. I was wearing PJs, I had been crying so my face was all splotchy, and it was around 9:30 at night so the lighting was terrible. I had to just joke about it at that point. I sent the photo in and waited again. By mid-morning the next day my hero support person had emailed me a link to reclaim my account. Everything was basically exactly as I had left it. A few things on my bio were deleted, but that is it.

The Devil works in very obvious ways y’all! He was trying to stop me. Trying to sew seeds of self-doubt and frustration. One of my good friends texted me that night right after I emailed the photo in and she had these wise words, “So, oftentimes, when we are embarking on our purpose, the enemy will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to stop it. See this as more of an attempt to derail you. However, if God has called you to do this, then Satan can not so ANYTHING to stop it from happening.” She was so right! I couldn’t let it stop me or get me down. Thank you Courtney for your wisdom and comfort.

So, the next time something happens that is derailing you, making your good day turn bad, or causing you stress stop and think about whether it could be the Devil trying to stop you from doing great things.

Now, here are a few tips for anyone who has their Instagram account hacked.

  1. Try to stay calm, unlike me. Being hysterical, crying, and maybe possibly yelling at your husband does not help the situation (not that I did that or anything…). I am constantly telling my kids that whining doesn’t make anything better. I should’ve taken my own advice that night.
  2. Enable two-factor authentication on all of your social media accounts. I had no idea this even existed before my account was hacked. DO IT NOW! It is kind of annoying to have to get a text message with a code before you can log in, but not as annoying as your account being hacked.
  3. Change all of your passwords for all of your social media accounts. It is better to be safe and ensure that the hacker doesn’t access any other accounts. I was lucky that I had used a different email and password for my Mended Mama account, but I still changed all of my social media passwords.
  4. Please tell everyone you know to turn on two-factor authentication. I am sure there are many people who do not know anything about it. Evidently Instagram account hacks, especially of bloggers’ accounts, has been a big problem since August. Someone is out there doing this to many people.

So, what things has the Devil done to try to stop you? Let me know in the comments below.

The Devil Works in Not so Mysterious Ways

God Listens

I think that every Christian wonders at some point whether God is truly listening. Is He always listening? Does He listen just some of the time? Does He only listen when we pray?

Since coming back into the Church and finding my faith again I have felt like God is truly listening to me and giving me what I need at that time. His grace flooding me with a sense of peace about staying home with my kids and pressing me to start this blog was probably the listening session that has been the most impactful.

However, it isn’t just His listening about the big things that I’ve felt over these past few months. There have been so many little things as well. The topics covered during church service and in our Discipleship Community classes always speak to something my husband and I are dealing with at that moment. We are given some truths and advice on ways we can deal with the things happening in our lives.

Recently His listening came along with Hurricane Florence. And no, I don’t mean he spared our home from damage (which He did, but that isn’t what I am focusing on here). In the week leading up to the hurricane it was pretty well known that the NC coast would be severely flooded. As I was reading about possible impacts the feeling that my husband should go help with the cleanup came over me. The hurricane wasn’t even near land yet, but I felt that he should use his skills and abilities to help people who were going to be incredibly effected by the huge storm.

The hurricane came and went and then a day or so after Florence left us my husband received an email from a former grad school classmate who also attends our church. The email was an invite for my husband to join a team who would be traveling down to Lumberton, NC to help demo houses that were flooded. Lumberton was one of the towns that had the worst flooding. God was listening y’all and provided a way!

My husband went Saturday and helped clear out a flooded home. He was only able to help for one day because of a work business trip, but even helping for one day provided a much needed service for this family. There is still a huge need and people are continuing to serve meals, provide necessities, and demo properties. If you would like to help out consider donating to the American Red Cross or Baptists on Mission.

I am going to keep asking God to guide me and I know he will keep listening to my needs and providing.

peter-3-12.jpg

Do you feel like God is listening to you? What has He listened to and provided in your life? Let me know in the comments!

Rest is Biblical

Rest is Biblical

Rest. It seems like this has become a dirty word in our society. Our lives have become a competition to see who is busier. If you aren’t busy then you aren’t productive. You aren’t making use of your time or, even worse, you are lazy.

I don’t buy into this nonsense. I have never been someone who fills my days to the brim and never takes time to relax. Some days are busier than others and with two kids going to different schools my days can become busy quickly. However, over the past three and a half years I have tried to take life slowly and only involve myself in things that I actually want to do and find beneficial. Staying at home with my kids made me slow down and I wanted to slow down. That was part of the reason I wanted to stay home in the first place.

Even though I intentionally look for time to rest each day it can be difficult to find. I have a five year old and a three year old. That should tell you everything you need to know right there. My kids still need me quite frequently and I spend a lot of my day focused on trying to raise them to be good people. Plus getting food and snacks… so many snacks.

Moms have a hard time seeking out rest and relaxation. I think most moms know that they need it. There are two main problems that moms face when it comes to actually taking the time. First, finding the time can be pretty hard. A lot of it depends on how available and willing your spouse is to take over the childcare duties. My husband is pretty good at helping out and giving me time to myself. He does travels some for work though, so when he is gone there is much less room for me to take a breather. The second problem the simple fact that relaxing brings on the guilt. We feel that we should be spending that time whittling down our to do list or spending the time with our kids. I know that since I began staying home I have felt an increase in guilt for relaxing, especially when the kids are at school, because staying at home is my job. I am supposed to be filling this time up with getting things done, not taking a nap, reading a book, or watching an episode of a show. What I have figured out about myself though, is that this time is essential for my mental health. I am a much better, happier mom when I get a break and can focus on myself for even an hour. I am an introvert and I need solitude and time to myself to be restored. It is not optional. I have had many times throughout the past three and a half years where I was extremely unhappy due to not getting much alone time. I am a much more pleasant mother and wife when I focus on myself a little each day.

If you are still looking for a reason why you need to rest then guess what? It is biblical. God likes rest and He likes it a lot. In Genesis 1:5 God is creating light and darkness and separating them. “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” What is interesting is that we tend to see the start of the day as morning when the sun rises. However, God put evening and darkness first. He put the period of rest first and then the period of activity and light. God is showing how important rest is for our daily lives.

Even God takes a rest. Once He created the heavens and the earth He rested on the seventh day and made it a holy day because He rested. He wanted his creation, people, to also rest from their normal activities on this day. Having this mandated holy day is a great way to rest, reflect, and even build your relationship with God.

There are so many examples of scripture that pertains to rest. A quick Google search will reveal more Biblical passages about rest than you can use. One of my favorites is from Psalm 127:2 which reads. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for He grants sleep to those He loves.” This hits home for so many of us. We work so hard trying to do all the things, but for what outcome? We spend so much of our time doing things or worrying about things that aren’t very important. God is saying that if we slow down that He will grant us the rest and peace we need. This is so powerful and applicable to most people.

Rest doesn’t have to mean, physically resting. It can be spiritual or emotional rest as well. The main takeaway from all of this is that “rest” is important for everyone. Rest will look different for each individual. Your mission is to prioritize rest and figure out what rest looks like for you. You will not only be a happier person, but you will grow in your relationship with God. Making time for rest will probably always be something you work on. I know it is something I still struggle with some days. This past week I actually did fairly well with it and that is why I haven’t posted anything here in a week. When I wasn’t busy with the millions of things moms do everyday I snuck in some downtime and even took a few naps. It was heavenly.

And remember… you are important. God says you are important. Make sure you believe it as well and take time for yourself without any guilt. Now go and take a nap.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

– Matthew 11:28

Little Miracles

When people think of miracles they usually think of those big events. Someone’s cancer is magically cured. A child falls from a four story building and is somehow unharmed. A tornado rips through town and spares one home while all others are destroyed. Those are definitely miracles. I tend to believe that other, smaller things can be miracles as well. Like a child being born perfectly healthy, finding a twenty dollar bill in your pocket when your bank account is at zero, or your child overcoming something they’ve struggled with.

I think that we get so overwhelmed with life that we fail to recognize these little miracles. We don’t see these small things taking place in our lives that God has placed there. We undoubtedly fail to thank him for these things. At least, I know I do.

God gives me so many little miracles throughout the day that I fail to notice, but this week He threw one right up in front of my family’s faces. This wasn’t subtle.

A few days ago my husband and I were discussing tithing. He let me know what 10% of our income would be and that we needed to try to get to that amount each month, whether the money goes directly to the church or other charitable organizations. I honestly, didn’t handle the situation very well. I am a SAHM and we don’t have much extra money to spend each month after paying for everything else in life. I told him I didn’t know how it would be possible to make it to that amount each month. I wanted to give, but I just couldn’t fathom giving such a high amount every month. We discussed it further and then let the conversation rest for the night.

The next afternoon my husband was working from home and walked into the kitchen. He had a smile on his face and said, “Guess what.” I replied, “You got a raise? A promotion?” He then told me that he got an unexpected raise that was basically the exact amount each month that we needed to be able to tithe 10% to God. How crazy is that? God was listening to us that night. He saw our struggle, especially mine, and gave us what we needed. We didn’t pray to God for more money or for my husband to get a raise. He just decided to make the process a little easier for us. This was a little miracle. These are the little things that happen everyday which make life just a little bit sweeter.

What little miracles has God provided in your life? Do you see them as miracles? Let me know in the comments.

God gives

Why this blog? Part 2

[This is part 2 of a two part series]

So how did I get to the point where I decided to start this blog? In my last post I described my spiritual history up to the point of around April of this year. My husband and I had joined a Discipleship Community, basically a Sunday school class, where our kids attend preschool and the topic every week always hits close to home. However, joining this class is only one part of the story.

After having my daughter in 2013 I had a feeling in my gut that I wanted to stay home with her. For me this was a very foreign feeling. I had never wanted to stay home. I can admit I was even that person who never understood why someone would want to stay home all day and not have a career. Before having kids it seemed like being a stay at home mom was the easy way out (don’t kill me, I know how incredibly wrong I was). So when I had to go back to work 8 weeks after having my daughter I was torn. My gut was telling me to stay with my baby, but my logical brain was pulling me to go back to work. I even called a friend, who was someone who had desired to be a SAHM before having kids, but decided to be a working mom after having kids, to ask her advice. Ultimately, my husband and I decided I would continue working because we couldn’t afford for me to be a SAHM at that time.  The first few days away from her were hard, but I adjusted.

Then a mere 19 months after having my daughter we welcomed my son. We had moved to a new house and my husband had just gotten a new job. I had also just received a raise, which meant I would have a little money left after paying for daycare for two kids. Once again my gut was telling me to stay home, but we went back and forth debating it. I had to go back to work after 8 weeks, but only for 2 weeks until school got out for the summer. We finally made the decision that I would stay home about a month into the summer.

Man was that a rough summer. The lack of sleep (my son was a horrendous sleeper), the transition to staying home, and adjusting to having two kids was very hard for me to deal with all day by myself. I am also pretty sure I was dealing with some undiagnosed postpartum depression. Throughout the next three years I would fluctuate between feeling great about staying at home and feeling like I was wasting my life and feeling unfulfilled.

This summer everything came to a head. I started feeling like I needed to go back to work. I applied to both full and part-time positions with no success. Before staying home I almost always got at least an interview, so it was a big hit to my self esteem. Even though part of me wanted to go back to work it didn’t seem very practical with a 3 yo in preschool and a 5 yo who was probably starting kindergarten (the struggle on whether TK or K was the way to go is an topic for another time haha). I also still had the feeling of wanting to stay home and be there for them. I started looking for part time opportunities both outside the home during preschool hours and part time jobs I could do from home. Again, I wasn’t having much luck going that route. I felt lost, useless, and honestly, like a loser. I wasn’t happy and it was having an effect on my family.

I had lunch with a friend and poured out a lot of what I was feeling and she was supportive. She reminded me to trust my gut and that being a shepard and servant to my family is the greatest calling I can have. A few days later some ladies from our Discipleship Community decided to spend our monthly hangout time attending a local Ember event that was being held at our church. This night was life changing for me. I listened to the speaker, sang the songs, and cried almost the entire time. The tears flowed because I was releasing everything that had built up in me over the past three years. In the middle of the event God spoke to me. He told me to start a blog that would share my journey getting to know him better and my struggles to be a better person, wife, and mom. His voice wasn’t a shout. I didn’t hear someone actually speaking to me. It was just this intense feeling and moment of clarity. The idea just popped into my head with a simultaneous feeling of peace. I immediately felt lighter and happier. I have wanted to start a blog for several years, but always let my fear get in the way. That night I also, let go of the fear that had been holding me back.

As soon as I walked in the door that night I told my husband about the event and what I wanted to do. I was very nervous to share what happened in my soul. After we discussed it he said he would fully support me if I wanted to go down this path instead of getting a part time job and the income that would come along with it.

Since that night I have not thought less of myself for staying home. I have been at peace with my decision and take life one day at a time. I am definitely not perfect and I sometimes still have a thought that I could be doing more. I also still get doubts and fears about the blog. For right now though, I am focusing on this blog, volunteering at my kids’ schools, improving my health, focusing on my mental health, and ignoring all of those negative and fearful thoughts. And guess what? It feels good.

 

C.S. Lewis

Why this blog? Part 1

[This is part 1 of a two part series]

Growing up in the Bible Belt means a couple of things. First, pretty much everyone goes to church on Sunday whether they are truly a believer or not. It is just what you do. Second, there is a church about every one thousand feet in every town, so you have plenty of options for which doors you enter every Sunday morning. Throughout my childhood and teen years I diligently went to Sunday school followed by worship service every Sunday. My family was never very spiritual. We went to church, but there was’t any family Bible studies, not much praying before meals, no real meat of having a relationship with God. We did bake a birthday cake for Jesus each Christmas which was always fun, but didn’t exactly lead to learning more about the Bible. Even without the emphasis at home I still accepted the Lord as my saviour around the age of 10 and was baptized.

Not much changed in my Christian life until high school. At this point I was living with my father and stepmother full time and I did not feel like the church my family attended was the right fit for me. I decided to start attending church with my best friend at a different Baptist church in town. I loved the youth group and we really did a lot of great bible studies. I also ventured on two different mission trips within the United States through this youth group.

The biggest hit my faith received was when I went off to college. My relationship with God was never very strong, but college pushed it to the brink. I was a history major and studying about all of the religions throughout time made me start to question God. I did not attend church during college and after college I did not restart the habit. I never got to the point of not believing in God, but I did have doubts and questions.

After having my second child we tried to attend a church that was a few minutes from our home, but with my son’s nap schedule it was just too difficult to make it work, so we did not keep attending. When my kids became preschool age they started attending the preschool at the church. Finally, after my son turned 3, a friend I met through the preschool invited me to come out for a girl’s night. It ended up being mainly women from her discipleship community (basically Sunday school class) in attendance and as we were leaving the restaurant my friend invited me to their DC that Sunday. God was speaking to me through her that night. I went home and told my husband, who had been pushing me to start going to church again, and we made a plan to attend that Sunday.

That one act has been life changing for me. Every week the topics covered in the DC have been things that hit so close to home. It is a class specifically designed for parents who have children in the preschool. The materials discussed have been issues my husband and I have been dealing with. The class has helped us tremendously. Attending was the first step in reestablishing my relationship with God.

In the next installment I will explain how joining this class and attending church led me to creating Mended Mama. If you like stories of God speaking to someone or if you always wonder what people mean when they say that God spoke to them, then part 2 is for you.

Everyday you wake up, you have one job. To be better than yesterday.