Anxiety and Trust Can’t Coexist

When I was eight years old I remember laying in my bed at night and crying over all the possible things that could go wrong. I cried for every person I knew that smoked because what if they died of emphysema? I’d stay up worrying about if my baby brother would grow up to like me, and I’d fret about mosquitos giving me AIDS (no joke, I was terrified!). I was never a risk taker in my teen years, too many things could go wrong. My biggest risky behavior was to drive a tad over the speed limit… and I got busted for it WAY too many times!

Fast forward to becoming a mother, and this anxiety hits in the deepest depths of my mind. I’ll never forget that moment that I first had the overwhelmingly panicky, fearful moment. My oldest child (only child at the time) was only about 7mo old and we were driving along Mammoth Mountain in California. The snow had piled so high along the sides of the road that the road was narrow and the cliff was right there! It was beautiful… to some… to me it was our death trap! The higher we drove on the mountain, the more I glanced back at my baby, and the more scared I became until finally I blurted out, “TAKE ME HOME!!! I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE, NOW!” I shocked my husband and myself.

I do not have anxiety at a clinical level. But I have moments of complete fear, to the point of tears, and I begin to lose sleep over all of the what ifs. Last night was one of those nights. In about 3 weeks we’re returning to one of my kids’ favorite places, and one of my biggest fears. Wisconsin Dells. You see, for people like me, large crowds and 4 kids spark anxiety. Swimming pools spark anxiety. Add those things together and you’ve got it, I’m up at night with anxiety filled dreams, and a list of what ifs a mile long.

But, this isn’t our first time to Wisconsin Dells’ crowd filled, death traps upon death traps of water slides and pools (sorry… ), and it most likely won’t be my last. I made a decision a long time ago, as I’ve been dealing with this for 13 years now, not to allow this issue of mine to rob me of the wonderful fun my family has. It isn’t easy. My dreams are vivid, life-like, and scare me to the point of tears almost every single night leading up to this trip… but they won’t overcome me.

Anxiety and trust cannot coexist. If I want to honor God by trusting him with the things most valuable to me, my kids, I have to take captive every single anxious thought. Trusting God is not as easy as typing that out. It takes practice, discipline, and constant attention to the destructive thoughts that come in order to push anxiety like mine aside and choose to trust God.

Many people do not like this idea. They don’t believe they have control over the thoughts that come in their minds. They take the motto of “It’s too hard” instead of “Be anxious for nothing”. And to be honest, it offends them to read something like what I am typing. When we struggle to overcome something, the last thing we want to hear is that our trust in God is wavering. But there is the truth, and that’s what we have to look at. Anxiety and Trust cannot coexist. And in the midst of a late night battle with anxiety I have to make the choice to either dwell there, give into the thoughts, and feed the anxiety or to trust God to care for and protect my mind, and ultimately me and my children.

“But it’s so hard! The thoughts are so strong, and constant. HOW can I possibly drive them out!?”

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5

So, First, read the Word of God and BELIEVE it when it says “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-8 MSG)

You have to replace the anxious thoughts with God trusting thoughts. Believe me there may be days where this is ALL you do in your mind. It’s gruelling, but SO worth it. In the NLT it says, ” Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Part of this process is to remember ways God has protected you, cared for you, and met your needs.

When my 2nd daughter was born I had a hard time laying her in her bed and leaving the room for the night. I was going through a really rough time, we had moved from CA to WI and had no jobs to support us. I was having some trust issues with God and one night when I simply could not pull myself away from her bedside I sat on the floor and cried. I said, “God! How can I trust you when we have no car, we have no jobs, and now two kids, what are you doing here!?” and right there on the floor of my infants room I hashed it out with God. He won of course reminding me of every time he’s met my needs. He reminded me that when I don’t trust, I pull away. And when I pull away, I put an unsafe distance between me and God. God never moved, but I took steps away. And once I began to thank Him for all He’s done, that peace surrounded me and I could trust my daughter in His hands.

I prayed that if something truly warranted my attention that I’d know the difference between anxiety and a call to action. That has proven itself many times over now and I know the difference in the feelings.

After two miscarriages and finally a very difficult pregnancy and an even more difficult birth of our 3rd child,  I found out I was pregnant with my 4th. Fear began to creep in. And I chose to not live in fear. So I took this verse in Philippians and put it to practice. Every fear that came up, every what if that tried to steal my joy, I turned into prayer. For example: When I did not feel sick one morning after having severe morning sickness the day before, instead of freaking out because my experience told me that meant miscarriage, I prayed, “I’m so thankful that I feel so good today, Lord. Thank you for the reprieve, but I’m scared. I’m scared that this is a sign of miscarriage, please take care of my baby. I give this baby to you for you hold his future in your hands. I TRUST you and will choose to trust instead of fret.” I did this many times a day. My delivery was so horrible with baby #3 and I’d fret the delivery of # 4 almost every day of the pregnancy, but I turned them into prayer EVERY.SINGLE.TIME until that peace came over me… and that delivery was the easiest of all 4. It was so good!

So I think of those times and I remind myself that God has taken care of our family from the very beginning and he will not stop now. When I wake up at 4am riddled with dream after dream of my children drowning or getting lost, or kidnapped while at the Dells, I get myself up and pray myself through immediately, even if that means missed sleep tonight… tomorrow will be better.

I also pray the scriptures. I believe the Word of God is true. And so I pull out a few scriptures and I pray out loud the TRUTH over my fear. I put my kids’ names in the spots where it makes sense…

Lord, I look up to the mountains—
For my help comes from there. 
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!
 
He will not let My children stumble;
the one who watches over them will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over my children
never slumbers or sleeps.
 
The Lord himself watches over them!
The Lord stands beside them as their protective shade.
 sun will not harm my children by day,
nor the moon at night.
 
The Lord keeps them from all harm
and watches over their lives.
The Lord keeps watch over them as they come and go,
both now and forever. (Psalm 121, bold print = changes)
I fill my mind with prayers of trust until there is no room left for thoughts of anxiety. And to be honest, this took me 90 or so minutes last night. It’s NOT easy… but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
God is a sympathetic God. None of us are perfect, and we’re all given our own set of struggles to overcome. God does not leave us to do this alone! He’ll walk each step with is.
For some anxiety isn’t an issue, for others, it can be a cancer. And just like cancer treatments can be aggressive, so must our course of action to overcome fear and anxiety. For some it’s not the safety of their children, but their checkbook, they fear and fret every time it’s time to pay the bills. They lose sleep over how they will put food on the table. For others it may be the drive to be perfect in all they do. They fear making mistakes and they live in this constant pull between the impossibility to be perfect, and their anxiety over beating that impossibility. Although the symptoms are different, the cancer is the same… and the treatment will always be to CHOOSE to be anxious about nothing and pray about it all.
I suspect this won’t be my only night where I have nightmares. I have 3 weeks before we have the time of our lives at the Waterpark Capital of the World. And I’ll need to up my prayer time each day we are there, but I’m committed to choose peace and trust. It’s what the Word says to do.
Below are a FEW scriptures you can turn to prayer as you choose to overcome your anxiety. I got this set from a bible.com (youversion App) reading plan called, “Praying through the Scriptures: Anxiety” I keep this plan on my phone at all times so if I’m struggling I know where I can find some good solid scriptural prayers. I know there’s more out there, feel free to share them in a comment!
I’m praying for YOU, too. Anxiety can be debilitating. Don’t dwell in it (it’ll grow!) instead, choose trust. And remember Trust and Anxiety cannot coexist.
  • Matthew 6:25-34
  • 1 Peter 5:7-11
  • Philippians 4:4-7
  • Proverbs 3:5-8
  • Psalm 46
  • 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

 

And if you think about me during the week of June 17th-20th, lift me up in prayer. I would never want to ruin this week of fun for my family because of my lack of trust. I have always enjoyed myself in years past, and I plan to do it again this time.

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For the Sake of the Neighbor’s Salvation

 

How many of you know that the world and it’s moral compass is proof that Jesus is coming soon! We’re seeing a lot of scripture truly come to life and we need to heed the warning. Let’s take a look at  1 Timothy chapter 4

This chapter starts off with the warning from the Holy Spirit that some will turn away from the faith of Jesus Christ. Falling away comes in many different forms. One can give up completely, turn their backs on God, and profess atheism. One can begin to believe lies that the world tells them, and begin making up their own Jesus. So they no longer worship the TRUE Jesus, but a made up version, a false version… which is idolatry at it’s sneakiest. Or, one can continue coming to church, continue preaching to the world the true Jesus… but live in complete contrast to Him. They hold the truths in their hands and not their hearts. They say all the right words, but act not a one of them. Their conscience is dead, what once convicted them, no longer applies… to THEM, others, sure, but not THEM.

This is Satan coming to kill, steal, and destroy! His goal is to Kill our salvation, steal our purpose, and destroy our witness. And in the end times, we can’t afford for this to happen!


Timothy was a pastor, but this chapter wasn’t included in the Bible strictly for pastors. God wants our eyes to be open to be doing the work as well. Has anyone ever seen a baby bjorn. Has anyone seen THIS 

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This is how many Christians expect to live. Your pastor is NOT going to get in a man bjorn and follow you around. You can’t strike up a conversation with your grocery clerk and then turn your back and say, “Now my Pastor will invite you to church!” You can’t pack your Pastor up for every family gathering and let him do the witnessing for you. He can’t live YOUR life and influence YOUR circle. As much as most Pastors LOVE bbq, they can’t be at each one of your houses talking to your neighbors while you grill! YOU must step up, you MUST start inviting people to church, or the Church (capital C) will die. You MUST tell others about the AMAZING, AWESOME, LIFE CHANGING SAVIOR OF THE WORLD! I can not emphasize this enough! This is not optional.

But here’s the good news. God never reveals a problem that is too big for Him to solve. And right here in this chapter (and really all throughout the Bible), he gives us the HOW. How do we tells others, enhance our witness, and become effective Christians?

One… You must be anchored in God’s word. Paul says To be Nourished by the message.  The Bible is truth. It is 100% solid. It will give you ALL you need. Arguing over whose faith is right, or fighting against false teachings in a unloving way is never needed. Don’t waste your time. Instead, as verse 7 says, “train yourself to be godly.” Turning your focus on yourself, and your own relationship will win others to Christ WAY faster than pointing out all their wrongs. The healthier you are, the healthier example you set for the neighbors/community around you.

Secondly,  you must train for godliness.  Yes. Exercising is important. Building muscles keeps us going in life. The stronger your muscles, the better your endurance, metabolism, and even mental health are.  There’s no argument that it’s very important. However, the Bible doesn’t speak to a vigorous physical exercise regimen… but it is VERY clear that training for godliness is a must.

This word “godliness” in verse 8 means to have the character and attitude of God– We aren’t made in the image of Arnold Schwarzenegger. We were made in the image of God! So, is that true in your life? Do your neighbors, your co-workers, your family see the image of God in you?

I definitely don’t have the image of a beauty queen– but I pray that in every encounter the image of God shines more beautifully to others than any tiara I could ever wear upon my head! I pray that the way I treat my husband, the way I handle telemarketers, the way I negotiate internet rates… I even pray the way I discipline my children is proof that I was made in the image of God. It won’t’ mean I won’t mess up… but it is my duty to pursue, and train myself to live in such a manner. Bodily exercise is good… for awhile, but it won’t affect eternity. It won’t go into all the world and preach the good news… but our godliness will.

It is NOT easy, and Paul does not hide that it will hard. But he, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit reminds us that we work hard and continue to struggle through this training because  Our hope is in the LIVING GOD. David challenged Goliath in the name of the LIVING GOD… and guys… he slayed the giant! When we choose the godly life, we, too can slay our giants.  We can tell the rage that lives deep down, “You come at me with frustrations and stress but I come against you in the name of the LIVING GOD!” You can tell your insecurities… “You come at me with shyness and self loathing… I come against you in the name of the LIVING GOD!” You can stand there in front of your giant, whatever weapons he may bear and you can remind him that you have THE.LIVING.GOD and HE is the only weapon you’ll EVER need!

We have power! And it’s a SIN to keep it to ourselves!

We must teach these things and insist that others learn it.  I am NOT saying you beat someone over the head with your Bible, follow around after them chanting “GET SAVED OR BURN” rhetoric. You know, kids don’t learn sometimes on the first time… and sometimes not the 2nd time… and sometimes not the 3rd… or 4th… or 5th time… but we never just walk away and let them ignore the thing they HAVE to learn. Instead you continue to guide, and teach, and speak, and work it into daily life. And if we’re doing it right… we’re not doing this through beating them. Haha. So, we don’t beat people over the head, but we don’t neglect teaching them either. Teaching is more than just preaching, too, by the way.  We show them with our lives, we point them towards Jesus in how we talk to them. We pray for our neighbors and not gossip about them. We seek God’s direction, and we invite grocery clerks to Church. Or we pray with a grieving co-worker. We stand up for the weak, and live out our convictions, even when no one else agrees. You don’t HAVE to preach… but you do HAVE to witness!

There are NO excuses. Timothy was young– but was still called to be an example. So what is your excuse?
If you spoke them out, how ridiculous would they sound?
I did this. I stood at an alter where I felt God was wanting to use me, but I’d held back. And I said out loud my excuses… Are you like me as I stood there and said,
“I’m too fat to approach people and tell them about God.”
Ummm, yeah, where is THAT in scripture?
“I’m just too shy, I’ll stumble over myself if I try to witness.”
“God, I sin.” (Well, DUH!)
“I’m just too busy.”
When you HEAR yourself saying something so outlandish it should resonate with you that you’re just stalling. And you’re giving the enemy a footstool.

 We are called to point others to the saving Grace of Jesus fearlessly and let God do the rest! Paul told Timothy to “preach” through example– preach by the words you say but also HOW you say them–
Preach not just in how you live, but by how you enhance the lives of others.
Preach not by declaring that you go to Church, but instead SHOW them why you can’t stay away!

Preach in the way you live, in the way you love, in how deeply you live out your faith and how pure you are (vs 12). And do all of this by focusing on the scripture, encouraging and teaching others what the Word says.  

We mess up when it comes to the last few verses here… and it’s funny that verse 15 starts  Give your complete attention to these matters…

Timothy was given a gift– This refers to the varying spiritual gifts given to Timothy but it’s also the same word God used to speak of the gifts He gives US! We, as I’ve said before, are made in the image of God– We were given gifts and attributes to use to reflect Him… And yet we neglect them. We live in fear instead of peace. We live defeated instead of victory, we live insecure instead of the child of the God we were created to be! Where do we see the image of God fearful? Defeated? Insecure?

Timothy isn’t the only one that has been given supernatural gifts from God– the word was written TO US! FOR US! We should trust that God will do great things through us– and we must begin to flow with the moving and leading of the Holy Spirit. We must throw ourselves into this task so that everyone will see the progress as verse 15 says.  We need to  Give it our all. We can’t afford to live a passive Christian life. Other’s salvation is at stake.

People are staying away from church because they don’t see the point. The church going people they see are the same as the bar going people. They see anger outside… AND inside the church. They see a world full of hate, division, and pain… and unfortunately… so VERY unfortunately, they see it inside the church.
But maybe one of the most detrimental to the church is that lack of power they see when they look at the church. We’re so passive that they don’t see a reason to change.

Paul is speaking from experience here. No one could accuse Paul of living a passive Christian life.

 1 Corinthians 15:10 says But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  Paul knew spiritual growth didn’t just happen, we MUST actively pursue it.

We can have a saved soul– I mean, we’ll make it to heaven– but we can waste it in the process.

I mentioned at the beginning Satan’s goals for us. Kill, steal, and destroy… but what is God’s goal?
TO HAVE AN ABUNDANT LIFE! A powerful, effective life!  All of this culminates in this last verse in 1 Timothy
Why does all of this matter? Your salvation is at risk… but also

For the Sake of the Neighbor’s Salvation, you MUST take your faith outside the church walls and into your own sphere of influence.

If you are saved, and you’ve made that choice, the angels in heaven rejoice because of it, but… for the sake of the neighbor’s salvation you can NOT stop there. Your world needs salvation, too. Your living, your teaching, your witness saves people.
Satan knows that many solid Christians are pretty solid in their faith. He has probably figured out by now that he won’t get some of you to denounce Christ. So he shifts his purpose and works diligently to make you ineffective. If he can get you to look just like the world, he’ll ruin your witness… and he’ll win.
If he can get you to doubt yourself, and keep you living in fear, never stepping out to speak to your family about Jesus… he wins.

We, too easily, disqualify ourselves. We fail to believe the promises written right there in HIs word– and we play right into Satan’s plan for our ineffective lives. And for the sake of our neighbor’s salvation we CAN NOT let that happen! We aren’t going to be perfect… but we ARE going to make a difference.

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian Church. It’s the day the believers of Jesus went to an upper room and they waited for the promised holy spirit to arrive. In order to take the church out of the building, and into the community, we need the outpouring of the holy spirit. I’ve spoken a lot of MUSTS… and as much as I don’t want to sound so bossy and demanding, I’ve felt SO strongly that it is TIME. The Church needs to be a light into the community, and it can’t be just your pastor’s responsibility. They can’t be strapped to each one of you… You don’t need them (although they ARE important parts of God’s plan here).  You NEED Jesus! You NEED His power, His influence, His witness. But you can no longer keep it to yourself. If you are unwilling to take Jesus outside of  your own personal walls, you’re neighbors are going to die, and they WILL go to hell. I don’t know another nicer way to put it. The truth is, it’s time to leave your pews and trust God for the power to take the message out.

May I challenge you? Make a commitment to 1 Timothy 4. To live a godly life as an open witness… for the sake of your salvation… and the salvation of those who hear you!

This Monday devotion was brought to you by yesterday’s Sermon at Crossroads Church. If you’d like to hear more, learn more, or clarify more, please visit our Facebook page, give us a call (507-375-5920. Leave a message if you need to) or come to our Sunday Services every Sunday at 10am. 721 Weston Ave in St. James, MN. I’ll save you a seat!

This Mother’s Day… Remember

In the past few days I’ve packed up all clothing and toys that my kids have outgrown and laid them out for a garage sale. The process went something like this…

Step 1: Start in the basement and begin pouring over all the bags and boxes that have begun to accumulate. Pull out every piece of clothing, check the tag for size so you can organize… but hug each piece in memory of the time your child ____________. Cry here and there; laugh over something that reminds you of their cute little 3-year-old voice; cry some more, and then place in the box marked with the appropriate size.

Step 2: Repeat step one, but with every single toy in the house. Get your kids involved. Be proud of them for downsizing, but question them when they want to sell their most prized toy. Then cry when they say, “I’m done with that.” Try talking them into just a few My Little Ponies, or just one tiny collection of the “Super Heroes”. But ultimately box them up, tears and all. (Maybe sneak a few out of the box for future grandkids).

Step 3: Take your boxes to the garage where the sale will be held. Get a friend to join in your misery. As you take each piece of clothing out, tell your friend about the memory that each and every piece of clothing and toy brings to your mind. Cry. Listen to her memories. Cry some more. Tears with friends is acceptable!

Step 4: Begin to sell all your sweetest momentos one by one, 50 cents at a time. Tell the buyers all the cute stories each item brings to mind. Hold back tears. Tears with customers seems less than acceptable.

Step 5: Relive the experience, regret selling some things, and steal back a few items that did not sell… but most importantly close your eyes, have yourself an ugly cry (this is MOST acceptable!) and remember just how amazing this journey of Motherhood is.

Every memory, every feeling, every emotion those clothes and toys bring will STILL be there even when the items belong to someone else… because you never sell the memories.

Being a mother is such a crazy thing. We can love so strongly, get frustrated so easily, forgive instantaneously, and somehow manage to retain a lifetime of memories (x4 in my case).  These memories we have of our children may blend once in a while, “One of them use to say ‘Frog’ in the cutest way!” but others are so vivid in our minds, like how my son had his very own “Baby Spot” where he’d lay next to me in the middle of the night. He’d crawl into our bed, curl up in the curve of my body, and tell me that’s where he used to live, it was his “baby spot”.

We can relive panic moments like they happened yesterday, like when my son crashed into the wall at age 3 and exposed skull, and TONS of blood. I panicked. But then something kicked in and I immediately went calm and said, “I got this, I’m a mom!” And 13 stitches later, I felt that God had equipped me for motherhood.

We may not always remember each kid’s exact birth minute (sorry, I just can’t remember after baby 3… poor 4th born!), but we’ll remember the crazy giggles to the silliest things, like how funny my daughter thought she was at age 2 when she stole my cell phone and took pictures of the floor. Each click sound she heard brought a wave of mischievous laughter (which was contagious!)

We may choose to forget the mounds of laundry, although they may be a nightmare that haunts us for the rest of our lives… but we’ll never forget the sweet night-time smiles our babies give us in those wee hours of the night. My sweet daughter gave me many many smiles in the 18 times a night that she’d wake.

These memories, whether heart-warming, lesson-learning, self-encouraging, or life-giving will hold us in times of panic, frustration, exhaustion, and discouragement. They are God’s way of reminding us that these babies of ours, no matter how old they get, were given to us as a blessing for us. We become better humans because of them. We grow in patience, wisdom, endurance, and calmness. God helps us remember how He brought us through the sleepless nights of babyhood, so we can endure the sleepless nights of the teen years. God helps us recall the tantrum throwing 2-year-old emerging into a sweet and adorable 3-year-old so we can have hope as we battle with our 13 year olds. God brings to our minds the struggles and fruits of our sacrifices to remind us that He can get us through the remaining years of these precious gems in our care.

But ultimately God give mamas a special place to carry memories so we can be reminded of how completely amazing, and wonderful, and precious, and glorious, and abundant this life of a mother truly is. It is the sweetest blessing!

Happy Mother’s Day!

To the Overwhelmed Mama

It’s Mother’s Day week. This either brings excitement to your mind, or dread. You may be looking forward to an amazing day planned in your honor, or you’re preparing for unmet expectations… yet again. Well, I’d like to spend a few days this week encouraging Moms with some things I’ve learned  I’m learning on this journey. I’ve only been here for 13 years, and I know there’s this entire teen-mom thing just waiting for me (x4). But for now, let me share my heart at this stage.

Being a Mom of 4 (with an extra baby 10hrs of the day), I’m a tad overwhelmed. I may make it to church in time, and have most of the kids’ hair brushed and dressed semi presentable… but the chaos that gets us there is pretty overwhelming. There’s just so much to do. Laundry, cleaning, grooming, laundry, teaching, loving, encouraging, laundry, sports, shopping, feeding, laundry, breaking up fights, cultivating family bonding, laundry… and have I mentioned the never-ending loads of laundry? Even if I have the kids do their own, our schedule does not always allow for them to finish it all in one day, so the mounds begin to form, and the digging to find clothes adds to the frustration, then Sunday comes and no one has anything decent to wear… see, I’m getting overwhelmed just talking about it. But, the Laundry isn’t the only thing on the never ending list!

We are gearing up for a garage sale. And to be honest that was all because we’re really gearing up for family to come and stay for a couple of days in our home. So that means I want the bedrooms to be “guest-ready”. The problem is that My room and bathroom is downstairs, the Fab Four sleep and have a bathroom upstairs. Do you know the destruction that goes on when there is no parent living on the 2nd floor, just room after room of unorganized, hoarding, slime making kids!? If you don’t know… you don’t want to! It can get bad!

But I have to be honest, checking 4 bedrooms (oh how I’m blessed that each kid has their own room!!– But it can appear to be a curse!), 4 closets, a bathroom, a hallway, and the stairs EVERY DAY on top of everything else can be a tad overwhelming for me. I know that sounds lazy, and seem silly, but I also check 4 maths, 4 englishes, 4 sciences, 4 handwritings… I oversee 4 completely individualized curriculums, a baby who is here 40-50hours a week, sports schedules, doctor appointments, dentists appointments, and I’m married to the Pastor. And I don’t even have the energy to go into the work of the church.

Please hear me out, I LOVE this role as Mother (and wife, and pastor-wife). I really do! But, it can get so overwhelming. And so at the end of the day, there are days I’m just glad we made it. I’m just so thankful we all have smiles on our faces as I drag myself to the bottom step, cuddle them all, pray over them all, and send them to their beds. And as I lounge on that bottom step thanking God for those amazing little blessings, I snarl my upper lip, let out a sigh of exhaustion, and say, “Oh MAN, I forgot to check their rooms!”

So, day after day of that, when I FINALLY do check rooms, they are such a mess! And I drop my shoulders in despair as emotions of failure, inadequacy, incompetence and overwhelming unworthiness sweep over me. I can not mange bedrooms, I must be a failure as a mother! Lie number one!!!

Boy, did that escalate fast! But it’s true. We somehow equate being a good mother with how well we manage all the things that are piled on us day in and day out. We let messy playrooms, bedrooms, faces, and bottoms determine our self-worth. And just when we conquer managing the bedrooms, we notice those pesky stairs! HOW in the WORLD do stairs get so incredibly messy!?

But, that’s a LIE. Our success in motherhood has nothing to do with getting our kids to sports on time. It isn’t found in the cleanliness of our kids ears, or thank heavens the amount of times we’ve actually scrubbed that kids’ toilet!

You are a great mom because you love your kids. You are a great mom because you are pursuing a good life for your children. You are a good mom because you protect them, encourage them, love on them, and nurture them. You are their mother! Not their maid! And God has given you these blessings, not to overwhelm you, but to draw you closer to Him. My prayer life has increased exponentially since having children… even more so the more kids I’ve had.

Motherhood isn’t the most glamorous job in the world, but there is no better calling on this earth! And God never expected you to do this alone. I wake each morning and hit snooze on my alarm. It’s only 5 min, but I bombard heaven in those 5 minutes. I ask for patience, endurance, and a measure of Grace. I pray against the urge to be perfect, and for a peace to calm my overwhelming tasks throughout the day. I pray for my kids, and their walk with God that day, and I ask God to help them help me. It’s not a lengthy prayer, but it’s my way of reminding myself that it’s not my responsibility to walk this day alone. It puts before me the fact that God is on my side, desires for me to walk in His will, and will help me to do so. This doesn’t mean I don’t pray throughout the day as well… believe me, I am doing it often. “HELP, GOD!” “Protect this child!” “Oh God, I’m glad you love them! Remind them that I do, too!” and many many “Please forgive me, Lord” prayers! But nothing rejuvenated me more than that 5min prayer before I put my feet on the floor each morning.

Mama, be encouraged today! Know that God wants you to raise your kids in His love, and if you have to skip room checks in order to do that, then so be it… Just know even in the midst of the many sports trips, doctor visits, late night feedings, and all the ever-loving trash that comes along with motherhood, Jesus is walking this path alongside of you. He desires your company, and relishes in leading you as you raise these precious blessings He gave you. He chose this calling for you, He won’t fail to equip you to do it.

Praying for each of you lovely mamas this Mother’s Day. mothers-day

For those in the St. James, MN area, Crossroads Church will be starting up a Parent support gathering. These nights will be laid back nights for parents to come and meet other parents. If you are in the area, we’d love for you to join us. We will all be in different stages of parenthood… but we’ll share the same overwhelming feelings that come with the journey. June 10th at 6:00p will be our first gathering. If you’d like more information, please like our Facebook page so you can receive updates as the date comes closer.  Feel free to call the church office for more details as well. 507-375-5920 (leave a message if you want a call back)

Christians, Have You Been Sleeping?

Have you heard of the story of Jonah? You know the guy who was swallowed by a big fish and lived to tell the tale? It’s a great story of God’s provision even in the midst of… well, being in the stomach of a fish! But, even before his 3 days in the digestive track, he was in the pit of despair. Jonah was running from God. How is it that a prophet, someone who was chosen for such a grand task for God, could refuse to tell the people of Nineveh about the God he served?

Some of us are not too different from Jonah.

So here’s the beginning of the story in a nutshell… Jonah is told to go to Nineveh to tell them about God. Jonah HATES the idea, the people there are not jews, and Jonah is not too thrilled about telling them about HIS God. So he jumps on a boat sailing in the opposite direction. He finds a nice cozy place down in the hold of the ship and goes to sleep. Meanwhile there is a storm blowing. Violent winds were threatening to break the ship apart.

Now, how is it that Jonah could sleep so soundly? How is it that a man of God can be actively running, and yet so easily fall asleep… and even sleep through the violent storm shaking his boat?

Same way Christians today do the same thing. There are christians that are sleep walking. They are talking in their sleep, laughing and crying, and living… but their completely dead to the world around them.

Jonah maybe closed his eyes this time, but he’s been sleeping for a while. He turned his back on what God asked him to do, coming up with his own way for doing things. So when God didn’t do it HIS way, he high-tailed it out of there. He was dreaming if he thought God would ignore this.

Back to our story… While the storm is raging, the sailors are scared to death! They are trying every god they can think of. They are asking these gods to stop the storm… Their gods are fictitious. They don’t exist, they have no power. So of course they do not work. They are throwing cargo over, doing everything they can think of to keep from dying. All of them, crying out to gods who could do nothing, all while there was a man on board who had a relationship with the One True God… but was sleeping.

Christians!!! There is a storm in our world. Violent storms of sin, and pain, and hopelessness, and anxiety, and depression, and fear, and crime, and hate are threatening to break lives apart… and you’re lying there sleeping. You are the one who knows the redeemer, the hope-giver, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the peaceful One, the loving One… and you’re sleeping in the hold of the ship! Jonah slept while people fought for their lives… Christians! The world needs our message, and our testimony, it’s time to WAKE UP!!

The Captain of the ship finds Jonah and asks him to pray to his God, the ONE TRUE GOD. It’s their last-ditch effort, but they’re hanging on to a thread of hope. Jonah had the one who could deliver! We hold the truth, are we living it? The world may never come to us like the captain of this ship did.  If we lay around snoozing until they do, we’ll miss out. We won’t be apart of their journey, and their journey may end with the storm!

So, Jonah wakes up, the crew figure out that it’s Jonah’s fault that the sea is raging. They learn of his sin and since the storm was getting worse they desperately ask him what they should do now. I mean, come on, if the one person who claims to know God is causing the storm, what is there left to do!?

Christians, when we sleep through this life and pretend we’re fine… we are causing storms all around us. We are causing others to question our God. We are causing others to stumble as they try to stand upright through the torrential winds of life. How many times have we heard, “I don’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites there.” Although there are many flaws to that reasoning, it’s true that there are too many christians forgetting to live what they say they believe. They are  sleep walking. And they are a danger to the world around them.

Jonah decided he needed to be thrown into the sea. He knew God, he was just not living what he believed. He knew that God could fix it. Not just the storm, but HIM. He knew that the storm was his fault, and he acted in order to remedy the situation. It’s probable that Jonah repented at that moment. He woke up, and in order to save the people in his boat, he was willing to be thrown overboard.

It’s never too late to WAKE UP! There may be damage done, but you can make a difference in the lives around you. You can still decide not to ignore those hurting around you. Maybe you ignored the problem for years, and you’re too ashamed to admit that you’ve slept right through their issue. You can still throw yourself at the mercy of Jesus, and let Him wake you up.

HOW DO YOU WAKE UP!?

  1. Have a thorough consciousness of the reality of the world around you. Don’t turn a blind eye, pray for those lost in sin. Open your eyes to those hurting, and hopeless. Acknowledge that hate exists, and that people are falling into storms of anxiety and depression on a daily basis.
  2. Believe that the comforter CAN comfort those you see hurting in the world. And then ACT! Don’t be like Jonah and withhold the knowledge of God from a dying world.
  3. Serve God. Don’t stop because the storm is raging. It’s time to start living what we believe. When life is hard, when God asks more of us than we think we can do, serve God.  When trials come, Serve God. When things don’t work out the way you intend, serve God. You’re the Christian! You know the power of God, so don’t just believe it… ACT!

Jonah was thrown into the sea. And the sea suddenly fell calm. Jonah splashing into the sea showed the sailors that his faith was backed with actions. He was no longer one of those people who claim Jesus as Lord, and yet act no differently than people who have no god at all. When they saw this, they were amazed, and began serving God, too.

Our greatest evangelistic tool is not to blend in and sleep our way through the Christian life. It’s to wake up and  live a REAL Christian life. We must notice the need of Jesus in the World around us,  show them that we believe in the Jesus we claim as God, and we need to serve Him wholeheartedly. Show, with our lives, that Jesus is REAL. WAKE UP, Live bold, and awaken those around you!

Christians, we can’t sleep through this. We must “Go into all the World…” And if they catch us sleeping, we can lose them. Don’t worry, He promises to be with us always…

We, are not alone. Although Jesus IS enough, He isn’t asking us to do it alone. Find some good Christian friends who are AWAKE, and serving well. Surround yourself with the fellowship of other believers. And, let’s keep each other out of the belly of a whale!

A Full Length Mirror

I recently stayed in a hotel room (to ride out an April Blizzard, if you can believe that!) and within the room was not only a full length mirror right where you’d normally get dressed, but also a very BRIGHT mirror. There’s nothing worse than being confronted with a very bright full length mirror…. while getting dressed. Talk about emphasizing every small (and not so small) part of your body! Putting makeup on was puzzling. Do I need more, or is this lighting deceiving and I’ll really leave the room with so much makeup caked on that I’ll look like a clown? Did I really think I looked good in this outfit? OY VEY!

I know my body isn’t perfect, I’m actually quite sure it’s far from it. I know that my face has some flaws and could benefit from some light makeup… but nothing prepares me for that up-close spotlight on all my flaws. I found myself dressing in the far corner of the room, and standing several feet away as I applied my makeup for the day. And I wouldn’t say I have a crippling self-esteem… it’s just a bit too much reflection for my taste!

Have you ever said those things while reading the Word? Have you ever felt a tad too revealed after listening to a convicting sermon? Have you ever felt completely exposed when confronted with your sin? If so, GOOD!!! That’s GREAT! It’s exactly what’s needed! If not, it’s time!

You see, I know I have some a lot of weight to lose. But if I don’t look, I can just put on my big clothes, sit around and not really have to face the fact that I’m overweight and need to change. But, MAN ALIVE when confronted with that full length mirror, I’m back on the healthier lifestyle bandwagon! If we don’t look at our spiritual life, we can just keep on going to church, reading our Bible reading plans and checking off the boxes, and yet we never truly grow much closer to Jesus in the process.

It’s important for our physical walk through losing weight if we weigh ourselves, look at our transformations, and SEE the change. The first few pounds are the hardest. But when we start to see our jeans a tad more loose, and our faces thin out, we’re more motivated. But how do we measure spiritual maturity? We look into that full length mirror that’s lit up on all sides! We pay attention to where God is shining the light and start to fine tune them.

Nancy Demoss Walgemuth says God creates circumstances in order to show us our great need for Him, and His work in us. She preached at a conference in 2016, and gave the example of a mother who never knew she was an angry person until her 2-year-old painted the living room furniture with butter. At that moment God gave that mother a circumstance to show her what was truly inside her… A full length mirror!

My kids can walk around all afternoon with jelly from their PB&J at lunch all over their face. They don’t care because they don’t know. I mean, they know they didn’t wipe their face with each bite, and that at some point they did feel the wet goop touch their face. But their focus was on other things and so they got used to it. It isn’t until I tell them to go look in the mirror do they fully grasp how crazy they look with a Joker-like grin of Jelly plastered across their face.
Unfortunately sin isn’t as cute. We know the issues has crept in, but we get side tracked and we don’t confront it any longer. It finds its way into our lives and makes itself comfortable. And before long we’re not just angry at our kids, we’re snapping at our spouse, our neighbor, our co-worker… our God. And we know it’s there, but as long as we stay in the dark corner, we won’t have to face the full length mirror, and we can skip having the light shone on what we’ve worked so hard to hide in the dark.

Maybe its not anger. Maybe it’s pride, or a critical spirit. Maybe it’s complacency, or a life of a busybody. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s not pleasing to God, it needs to go. And God wants it gone. But we have to be willing to let Him shine the light on us to expose those deep places. We can not hold back.

I’m not an expert in the field by any means, but I’m walking through it. I’m daily asking God to create in me a clean heart and to make my spirit right with Him. And in order to do that, I have to be willing to give up any and all things that hinder that clean heart and right spirit. I have to pray these scriptures…

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ” Psalm 139:23,24

“Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart.” Psalm 26:2 (NLT)

But, beware… When you pray them, if you’re honest and truly are inviting God to turn on the bright lights, you need to be prepared to deal with what He shows you. Pushing it away will not get rid of it. Working through it will.

  1. Listen to sermons that won’t just tickle your ear. Find ones that will point-blank heap on conviction. I’m not talking about preacher who preach fire and brimstone… I’m talking about sermons that cut straight to the point and confront the tough issues. Ones that you hear and audibly say, “OUCH!”. Then begin praying through what hit the nerve.
  2. Tell a close friend so they can hold you accountable. Don’t pick your critical friend. You don’t need criticism. You need accountability. Tell your friend, “Please stop me if I begin to gossip to you.” or “I’m dealing with some pride in my life, if I start putting others down so I can puff myself up, will you please remind me of my goal to stay humble.” **If you’re the friend who has been asked, be loving, pray for the proper time to speak up, and don’t hesitate to call them out, they need it.
  3. Search God’s Word. Look for scriptures that speak to the sin you’re trying to conquer. Put those scriptures on notecards and put the notecards around your house. Put them inside cabinets you open frequently. Put them in your purse. Make a screen saver that will pop up every time you open your phone. Here’s mine…30874629_10156426241409430_1675829259_n
  4. PRAY! Nothing will get you through this gut wrenching fully lit, full length mirror like prayer will. Pray daily that God will point out every bit of what He wants removed. Pray that your eyes will be open to seeing it in yourself. Pray that you’ll be swift in dealing with it. Pray that sermons will penetrate your heart, that your heart will be open to a friend holding you accountable, and that scriptures would be so real to you that you begin to actually live them.

Please do not hear me saying that you should be down on yourself, that you should heap condemnation on yourself, or that you should feel you are anything less than the amazing person Christ died for. No, instead I’m telling you that there’s amazing freedom in knowing that God is fine tuning you, shining a light on all the parts that do not come into obedience to Him. When God does this it is so that He can USE you. He wants you to be a vessel He can work through. And what an honor and a blessing to draw close to Him and experience the power He has as he speaks to others through you, helps others through you, and changes lives through you. The greatest thing is that he doesn’t NEED us. But he uses us anyway. So, it must be for OUR benefit. And as I stand daily in front of that mirror, I’m noticing more and more the joy I have. I know I haven’t conquered it all, I probably never will. I’m flawed, and beautifully imperfect… but I strive not to stay there.

So, take a deep breath, and step in front of this full length mirror with me! It may not be beautiful at first glance… but believe me God sees something amazing…

Let’s turn the lights up!

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Psalm 51: 10-12

 

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Crossroads Church in St. James, Minnesota has the desire to make it easy for every person to Discover God, Grow in Him, and Reach out to Others. If you’d like to visit a service, please join us each Sunday at 10am at 721 Weston Ave in St. James. Our services start at 10am and there is something for the entire family. Like us on Facebook.

You can contact the Pastor’s Wife via email at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com

 

Why Church this Easter?

There used to be a tradition that people attended Church on Easter and Christmas. Even if they never attended any other time of the year. It used to be that weeks before Easter mothers everywhere searched for the perfect color coordinating outfits in the perfect pastels for their family so that Easter was the perfect photo opportunity. Pink plaids, eyelet lace, Easter bonnets, and collared shirts… AND CHURCH, that was the tradition. Then our society started to buck the traditional ways and people who attended church only on Christmas and Easter were given names like “Chreaster”, so even those 2 days got missed.

More and more churches are reaching out and people are politely declining the invitation to attend church. The tradition of going no longer holds any appeal, and the commitment of going is no longer a priority. As a regular church attendee, I haven’t missed an Easter Sunday service in 25 years. So if anyone has some experience in this, I’d be one of them… So would you take a moment and examine my answer to Why Church this Easter?

For a Christian, Easter is the foundation of our faith. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our faith would not exist. We believe that Jesus is the Messiah. He conquered death by defying its parameters. It’s what gives Christians life! So it seems fitting that anyone who calls themselves a Christian should set aside an hour each year to celebrate that. For me, I can hardly contain my delight. I’ve lived a blessed life following Jesus and trying my best to live close to His teachings. So when given the opportunity to gather with like-minded believers and specifically celebrate all that Jesus did, I’m ecstatic. Easter is my favorite time! But for those who are trying to live this life without a weekly boost of church, I can see how much harder the journey can become. So it’s all the more important to join a church Easter Sunday to reconnect, celebrate, and refuel.

For Christians who used to go to church, and have walked away from it for a time, this is a great time to try again. I’m all for coming to church every Sunday. I belong to a church that is just as excited to see someone walk in in October as they are to see someone come on Easter. However, sometimes it’s hard to make that decision to come back to church on a random October day (or any day)… but not on Easter. It’s almost expected. So it takes a pressure off.

For someone who is seeking, who is unsure where they fit in, Easter is a great time to visit and get a feel of the church. The attendance may be up for church that day, so it’s less intimidating for you to walk in as a new-comer. You’ll learn a lot about the Christian faith by coming on a day where the foundation of that faith is going to be celebrated. This is a great day to venture out and attend the church you’ve been thinking about attending for while.

For the regular attendee who has never missed a Sunday, don’t let this be the Sunday you miss! Of all the services I’ve ever attended at the various churches I’ve been to over the last couple of decades, Easter service is so heartwarming. The energy is high, the joy is evident, and the celebration is heavenly!

Now, here’s the thing. You may be thinking I’m giving a free pass to ONLY coming to church on Easter. You may be wondering why a church lover is promoting this “Chreaster” mentality.  And here is why… TODAY is the day of salvation. Today is the day of God’s favor. God set in motion thousands of years ago this EASTER celebration by giving us His son as a way for us. Jesus was the sacrifice that we could not give. He died in our place so we could have a relationship with God for all of eternity. The world thought they could kill Him. But, He could not be contained by their ideals and ways. He conquered death and rose from the dead. Christ raised Himself to show Himself powerful over death and sin. So, if Easter is the only time you plan on going to church this year… THEN GO! Go and see for yourself all that Christ as done. Go and fellowship with other believers and see how much that can benefit your life.

Sin and darkness creep at every corner. A day can’t go by that we aren’t affected by evil everywhere. We see it on the news, in the schools, at our jobs, and it’s increasing. The world won’t be won by marches, facebook rants, and divisions among political lines. But for that one special Easter Sunday you’ll get a glimpse of the Man who can change this world. With Christ in our hearts, and the encouragement we get from attending a church that helps us grow WE will be the change. And we’ll eventually overflow onto our neighbors so they THEY can be the change… and why wait any other Sunday but THIS EASTER!

Of course it’s the goal of every church that you’d return week after week… but you’ll have to make the decision to come the first time. So, Why Church this Easter? Why not? This just may be the day that changes your life!

Quick disclosure…

  • Please don’t let the pressure of color coordinated, perfect Easter outfits hinder you. Come!
  • Please don’t let your hate for tradition keep you from joining in the tradition of Church on Easter. Come!
  • Please don’t worry about the many years you haven’t made it to church, this is a new day, a new choice, and a new adventure. COME!
  • Please don’t be intimidated. We’ve been praying for you, we’re expecting you, and we are SO excited about you! YOU are welcome! COME!

If you are in the St. James, MN area, Crossroads Church will be meeting Easter Sunday at 9am for breakfast and our service will follow at 10:15am. YOU ARE INVITED!Copy of Church FlyersInvitation

Crossroads Church 721 Weston Ave in St. James, MN 507-375-5920 Follow us on Facebook

If you are too far for our services, and need a church recommendation, feel free to email the pastor’s wife at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com. I can find you a GREAT church in your area!

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Camp Crossroads VBS (FREE DOWNLOAD)

Churches are as unique as people. I’d bet it safe to say that no two churches are alike. And because of that, what works for one church (or even MOST churches) may not work for YOUR Church. I’m talking to pastors and pastors’ wives here.

We pastor (He has the degree and title, I’m just along for the fun!) a small rural church. The type of church that often goes unnoticed. However, if we were to overlook this small rural church, and so did everyone else… our small rural town would go unreached. So we count ourselves blessed and privileged to be called here for this time.

That said, it’s HARD! There are very few resources for the small rural church. (or the small church in any setting). Our funds are not large, our volunteers are not as abundant, our towns are not that easy to reach, either. And to top it off, our time is often spent between two jobs. Many small church pastors are bi vocational, leaving limited time to be accessible.  

I am blessed that I get to stay home with the kids and try to carry some of the weight for the church. I am also blessed that between the two of us, we found a part-time job, so neither one of us is away for many hours a day or week. (He works 8-11 hrs a week, I work 8 hours a week). This makes it easier for us to do some of these bigger projects.

So this past summer I was tired of spending money on a VBS (Vacation Bible School) curriculum, or even borrowing from a bigger church only to find it was written for a church with much bigger resources than we had (mainly volunteers!). So early in the spring I set out to just write my own. We had done many VBSes in the past and knew the basic skeleton of how to run one smoothly, so all we had to do was fill in the time slots. I’m very fluent in pintrest, google, and youtube… so I figured if I just took the time, I could come up with something that would entertain the kids for a couple of hours each night. Plus, I have 4 children, one in just about every age category, so I used their insights as well. And when all was said and done my kids, and the community kids exclaimed that this was the best year yet! I don’t take the credit, half of the things were written out of desperation and a prayer, “Oh, Jesus, PLEASE help me! I’ve scoured the internet for a VBS that will work for us… and have come up dry! When I place this pencil to this paper, will you please write for me?” And what came out was exactly what we went with, no 2nd draft… now THAT is God!

So, I fine tuned it over the next 6 months and came up with a 65 page VBS guide for the small church leader. I had no clue if there was a need for it until I posted it in a few small church forums. The response was eye-opening! There is a great need for good small church VBS curriculum! Some wanted to see it in a more visual sense, So, below you can download our VBS FOR FREE and tweak it to fit your needs. I also will post some pictures to give a clearer view of how much fun we had with this.
If you have any questions at all, please email me, I’ve never written anything like this before, so I may have left out some really important information without realizing it. thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com

Camp VBS is a 4 night VBS focusing on being brave. Each night is 2 hours. There is an opening rally with songs, a game, and a skit. Then 3- 20minute classes (Story time, snack, and games) and then a closing rally where we did 1 song and a “Game show” called BRAVE FACTOR. Brave Factor had 4 parts to it. An Educational Fact that dispels myths about scary things (bats, spiders, snakes… and Back to School). Egg Breaker, where kids compete against the game host (Billy Bob) in a game with 12 eggs. 11 hard-boiled, 1 raw. They take turns randomly selecting eggs until the raw egg is picked. Whats in the Box is a game where kids feel something (usually slimy and gross) and try to guess what they are feeling. And lastly they did Gummy Vs. Real. One volunteer vs Billy Bob. One gets a gummy and the other gets the real version. In the middle of it all, when the buzzer buzzed, 2 volunteers would engage in a beanboozle challenge. Jelly Belly makes these. One gets something tasty, one gets something gross… but the jelly beans look the same.
For more details, see the pictures below, otherwise, download the guide, and enjoy!

(Click the link below the image to download)

Copy of Summer Camp
Camp-Crossroads

Our sport was done around the newly added Gaga Ball pit that we added to our property. You can google “How to build a Gaga Ball Pit” and find all kinds of ways. This cost us less than $200. And we put it together just the two of us and a friend who could cut the board… and really he did a LOT more, but less than 4 eager workers!)18402725_10155399312564430_6250545921076087951_n

Here was our stage. We did our story time in this room for 2 reasons. 1, we gathered around the campfire for the Bible stories. It was already decorated, and kept kids out of the way of other activities. And 2. We did not have an extra helper for Story time, so we wanted the leader and kids to be in a wide open area. A full sanctuary where some adults sat and watched, or if they weren’t there, anyone could walk in at anytime. It is not wise for one adult to be alone with children, always have 2 adults when you can. But if you can’t, be sure your adult is out in the open.
The sky and clouds are $1 table cloths from Walmart or Dollar Tree. Buy some spray adhesive to attach your clouds, super easy!
Borrow trees from people at church, and if you have a piano, hide it behind a “waterfall” haha.
We gave the tent away, the orange chair, fishing poles, and a walkie-talkie. We got the logs from a church attendee who then donated them to anyone who would come pick them up (THAT was a huge hit in the community!)

The banner was purchased with Hobby Lobby’s 40% off coupon… be sure to take a friend so each of you can buy separately and get them cheaper (this is two tied together!)

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For Team points, the kids could dress in their team colors. Each teammate who sported their color got 10 points for their team… POINTS are the key to engaging kids! They’ll do ANYTHING for points.
The girls are wearing their worship team shirts. I printed the word Brave, cut it, laid it on the shirt then sprayed it with fabric spray paint and then picked up the word and got these SUPER CUTE shirts for our worship team!
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Our Worship team was just 3 girls. 2 belong to me, and one is a family friend. I had them watch you tube videos (the links are in the pdf download) and put together moves for the songs. Then they practiced, practiced, practiced. They started about 3 weeks before VBS started. This leaves more adults to crowd control.

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Now for our Characters… This is Daisy Diva… she loves pink, and anything that sparkles.. she hates dirt, and anything outdoors.20904420_10155736114839430_2145245714_o

But she did get “Most Improved Camper”. This can be printed off of any website or publisher. It’s silly, but a good prop.

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This is Billy Bob! Our Character of Billy Bob has made an appearance every year. Pastor, is also a main character of the skits, so all the kids know him. He changes his shirt, takes off his glasses, and adds a big yellow clown wig. He speaks with a hillbilly accent and acts super silly. When asked if Pastor is Billy Bob, Pastor always replies, “Well, we’re never in the same room at the same time… so…” The kids KNOW it’s Pastor, but play along and even shout “Billy Bob” to him when they see him around town. This is a GREAT way to connect with kids in your community.  This year, since he was the host of BRAVE FACTOR, he wore a suit coat and tie with his tee shirt! (I sure do love this man!)

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Our “What’s in the box” box. Just cut some arches half way up on the side of a box, be sure they are flexible, and their hands can fit inside and reach the item that is hiding inside.

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The game Egg Breaker. To save on cleaning up egg off the carpet, play this game (take turns picking an egg to break on your head… there are 11 hard boiled eggs to 1 raw egg, the one who gets the raw egg loses). We placed a big black trashbag with a head hole cut in it over the student volunteer to protect their clothing.

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At random times, we had a sound buzz, it was “BEAN BOOZLE” time. And Billy Bob called one volunteer up. The volunteer chose a friend and each kid got a jelly belly. One got a favorable flavor, the other got a nasty flavor… but they look identical. So did they get chocolate pudding… or dog food!!! *Have a trashcan handy!*

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This is the game “Gummy versus Real”. We used regular church platters, and big mixing bowls on top. One of them got a gummy, and the other got real. To keep kids from eating nasty things (and to prevent puking), the kids ALWAYS got the gummy version. We’d ask them “A or B” without telling them which was A and which was B… it just “so happened” they always picked the gummy version.

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Our Gummy vs Real items were: Sardines vs swedish fish; Gummy squid vs Calamari; A long gummy snake vs dried snake… and once they knew the routine, and figured how the kid always got the gummy the last night we did small gummy bears vs LARGE Gummy Bear. The kids opened theirs first every time but this time Billy Bob opened his, and when they saw that he had the gummy bears, they panicked a bit… but then they got the large Gummy bear, it was great!

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The winning team for the week got to put pies in Pastor’s face. We normally do this outside, but it was pouring rain this particular night… so he was sitting in the baby pool, with sheets all around for flying whip cream. But remember, stains on the carpet just prove that your church is doing WORK!

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Snacks… Like I said before, Pintrest is your friend. And gave me all my ideas for snacks! Here are a few!

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I made these the last day… they are “flames”. I laugh because I can so much better than this, and was super disappointed in myself. BUT… the kids LOVED them. Just reminds me that kids are great! Kids will love it so don’t hold back!

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For our BRAVE FACTOR Educational facts, we googled some images… These look pretty scary!

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So although it looks overwhelming, it’s not! Be BRAVE and VBS on! If you end up using this guide for your church, I’d be ever so blessed to know! Please either leave me a comment, or email me thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com 

God bless, you and remember it’s not about numbers, it’s about passion and doing God’s will!

 

Marriage Success

This January marks 17 years of marriage for The Pastor and me. We started dating a year before that, so 18 years together. We are just years away from spending more years together than years apart. On our anniversary I looked across the table, past the 4 very boisterous children, at my man and thought, “THIS is success.” Life has its ups and downs. But when I look across the table, holding our family, I am so blessed by knowing that life can go any way it wants and I will still have this man of mine and our marriage.

So I thought I’d ask this man of mine, “Hey, what are we doing right?” That’s not always a question people ask, but in reality, marriage is hard. Marriage takes a lot of work. Not every marriage survives. And yet, here we were. And without sounding braggadocious, it has been pretty easy for us. Don’t stop reading!!! I’m fully aware that those who are entirely committed and completely love their spouses sometimes have to work hard at keeping a good marriage. And I’m so happy that people are willing to do the work to keep it good.

So, I want to share the things we are doing right in hopes to inspire those just starting out… or those who are trying to keep on going. And please… 17 years is just a drop in the bucket, so if you have your own “right”, please share in the comments section. I’d love to hear what you and your spouse are doing right!

Our wedding vows are taken from Romans 12:9-18. When we decided to write our own vows we wanted something Biblical. We figured the best way to truly keep a vow that important was to take it straight from the eternal Word of God. The caption to that passage says, “Love in Action” and that was our intention. To keep love an action.

Love must be sincere: When praying for my spouse, I pray that God will show me how to love him. I ask God to keep passion in my marriage. Without a sincere love, marriages won’t work. So pray for a genuine sincere love for your spouse, it’s never too late for this step!

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good: There are many things that are a huge threat to your marriage, stay away from those things. HATE THEM! If it threatens your closeness, your communication, your sincere love, stay away and cling to what is good. Leave no room for those threats to creep in. Keep your relationship pure. Keep your eyes on your spouse, your heart on your spouse, and your passion for your spouse. Hate all evil that tries to creep in. (With technology in our pockets, the temptation can be there at any moment. Take the steps required to keep your marriage good).

Be devoted to one another in love: This goes along with the previous one. Devotion is loyalty. So staying true to your spouse in all aspects (emotionally and physically) is very VERY important. It seems obvious, but loyalty isn’t just staying affair-free. It also involves not speaking bad about the other. It’s very common for friends to get together and bash their spouses. “He never_______!” “She always _______!” It breeds quickly and goes south just as quick. Be devoted in love! Don’t put your spouse down EVER… not even to your mother!

Honor one another above yourself: My husband rubs my back almost every night. I can almost guarantee he doesn’t really WANT to rub my back every night, but he knows I have a hard time falling asleep and so he does this for me. I could keep listing examples of how this man of mine honors me above himself… and to be honest, I’m having a hard time coming up with ways I demonstrate this for him (let me take a moment to let that conviction set into my heart…) but, when we honor the other above ourselves, we learn to hold our tongue, give things up, add things that aren’t our first choice, and strive to please the one we love. When BOTH spouses do this, no one feels belittled, overworked, or stretched beyond what is God-glorifying.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord: This is the most important thing to a successful marriage. I cannot emphasize enough how important your relationship with God is to your relationship with your spouse. As each spouse draws close to Christ, seeking His will above all else, they will draw closer to each other. Think of it as a triangle…                   Screenshot 2018-01-21 at 4.50.53 AM
So keeping your spiritual zeal and fervor is of utmost importance.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer: When our hope in placed in Jesus then being joyful is easy. Nothing makes a better marriage more than a happy spouse. When we can be joyful, it can spread through the household. That doesn’t mean trials won’t arise, but that’s where the 2nd part comes in. We need to be patient in affliction. Of course this verse is speaking about trials in our personal walk, but when trials come into our marriage, we need to be patient with our spouses. Because we love them sincerely, and because we are devoted them, and because  we honor our spouse above ourselves we can be patient when trials come up. This is why we must do the 3rd part… we MUST be faithful in our prayer time. Continually pray for your spouse, and your marriage. Nothing aids in the love towards a person like praying for them does.

Practice hospitality: I’ve often wondered why it’s so easy to hold our tongue and our temper with our college roommate (who can be a tad unruly at times) but when we meet the love of our lives, get married, and move into a house together (as it should be done in that order), we seem to throw consideration out the window. We stop holding our tongues and reigning in our temper. When my college roommate let the trash pile up in our apartment (it was her job to take it out), I didn’t nag her and scream about all of her inadequacies as a person simply because the trash was overflowing. And so I should not do that to the love of my life! Consideration goes a long way. Practice hospitality even with your spouse. They may not be a guest in your home, but you can definitely greet your spouse with a daily dose of warmness and courtesy.

Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse: Let me be honest, there are times when a tiny little frustration can blow up to a full-out catastrophe in my mind. In my mind I can say, “These dishes can pile up all week long! Maybe when he has to eat off dirty dishes I’ll get some help around here!” (this is usually on a bad day, and then I remember how often he does the dishes and I snap out of it!). I never follow through with my antics in my head (mainly because they are totally irrational!), but I’ve talked to women who have shut their husband’s out by refusing to make him dinner. She’ll cook just enough for her and the kids and leave him plateless at the table. I’m not saying he didn’t do something to hurt her, he probably did, but we should set out to bless and not curse. Do what is right even when the other person does not. And continue to be faithful in prayer, praying for a change in your spouse. Maybe even go above and beyond when you feel hurt. You can always discuss the hurt, but always always always bless and do not curse.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn: Empathy in a marriage goes a long way. When one spouse is dealing with frustration in the workplace, be that listening ear. How many times have wives said, “I’m not looking for a solution, I just want him to listen!” We, wives, want our husbands to be happy when we’re happy and sad when we are sad… well, at least, understand our feelings. I’m assuming it goes the same way from husbands to wives. Be a good listener, empathize with your spouse.

Do not be proud… Do not be conceited: Most arguments between spouses are simply a matter of who is right and who is wrong. And too often who ever is right wants to be sure the other one knows just how right they are. But this goes along with honoring your spouse above yourself. You can be right and still honor your spouse. You can empathize and still be right. You can agree to disagree and maintain your friendship with your spouse. Is being right more important than valuing your spouse? Is being right more important than validating your spouses feelings? Is being right worth the divide it can cause? Do not be conceited or too proud to bow out of a discussion that is heading towards argument. A silent night is better than an explosive one. (That is of course assuming you’re communicating in a loving way in other aspects.)

Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone: When Paul wrote this passage, this segment, this command he understood that it was impossible to always be right in everyone’s eyes. And although this particular wording can seem weird. What Paul was trying to convey was that we need to be upright Christians in our everyday walk. Let people see the good marriage you have. There are friends of mine (I use the term loosely) that are offended by my happiness over my good marriage. I’d bet it’s safe to say some have even stopped reading, not because this blog is SO LONG, but because they don’t want to hear about my successful marriage. They scoff and get upset, but in reality God set marriage up to show us a type of Christ and His Church. Christians are the bride of Christ. He loves us unconditionally and cares for us and He set up marriage to give us a tangible view of that relationship. Our sinful nature and actions have messed that up. But look at a good marriage, and you’ll see that loving relationship Christ wants to have with us. Of course, even the best marriage is an imperfect reflection of a very perfect Christ, but it’s a glimpse. The fact that my husband knows me better than my own mother, and loves me anyway… by CHOICE reminds me of just how much more Jesus does. So let your marriage be a testimony to those around you. Let it be a  witness of Christ’s love for His church. I mean, for real, if my husband can endure my many imperfections and still love and adore me, how much more can Jesus?

And lastly As far as it depends on you, live at peace with your spouse (scripture says everyone). Choose to live at peace. Learn to overlook. And decide on a respectful conversation over a hateful nagging.  If you know your husband likes the seat moved back in the vehicle so he doesn’t hit his knees on the steering wheel, take the extra effort to push the seat back when you drive his car. If your wife drags you to one more antique store when your feet have been aching for 4 stores already, take one for the team (she’s only looking for the best price anyway, and that’s a good thing for you!… insert winky face here). As far as it depends on you… if it’s in your power to do so… live at peace with your spouse.

There are TONS more scripture that would go great for guidance on a great marriage, and there are TONS more tips we could share. But I believe most fall within these 12 guidelines. I’m not stating that my husband and I never fight, or that I’m this perfect wife, or that he’s a perfect husband. But we have a fantastic marriage because we try to do all 12 of these things. Just like any human being, I get annoyed with him, and him with me from time to time, but that seems to be less and less the more and more we put these 12 things into practice.

How is your Love in Action? I’d love to hear and share, leave me a comment!

How to Celebrate Without the Chaos

Yesterday I shared my heart about cherishing the moment within the Christmas season and why we need to stop and ponder the reason we celebrate. You can read that here.

If you read that post you may be wondering (or even pondering. HA!) HOW you can take a moment to celebrate in the midst of the chaos. Let me share a bit of what we’ve chosen to do over the past few years in order to bring more celebration and less chaos to our Christmas season.

For us the chaos begins with my daughter’s birthday around Thanksgiving. We try to cram it in before Thanksgiving, and if you know us you know we don’t cut corners on birthday parties, I’m pretty sure they are my 4 of my favorite things to do! My other daughter has a birthday within a week of the New Year, so our chaos goes from November 20th to January 4th… and I feel I need to have that January birthday party completely planned before the November one just so we don’t forget through the month of December.
For us the chaos comes in the form of a personal christmas party, a deacon christmas dinner, a women’s ministry christmas meal/gift exchange, a church kids program, the big church christmas lunch and party. We do an advent calendar with our kids to make each day special throughout the month. My birthday is smack dab in the middle, and our anniversary is January 1st! Sounds CRAZY CHAOTIC doesn’t it? But it’s not! I promise you, it’s not. Here’s my secret in a nutshell. We got rid of everything that caused more stress than fun. If we were stressed a little but didn’t neglect the bigger picture, that was okay. But the things we dreaded and caused stress without any reason other than obligation, we cut.

First we scheduled out our Christmas weeks at the beginning of November. If things weren’t able to be spaced in a way that kept the chaos at bay, we moved things around, or cut them out completely. We chose what was important, what their purpose was (ultimately to celebrate the birth of Christ by gathering with people we loved and wanted to share God’s love with) and eliminated things that weren’t top priority. Although our part-time jobs may put on a fabulous Christmas party, getting a sitter, buying the extra gift for the gift exchange, and moving other meaningful engagement around seemed to heap more stress than meaning into the season, so we let those go. We respectfully decided not to attend. It was nothing against the party themselves, or the people who were going to attend, it just simply didn’t fit into our priorities for the season.  (and perhaps that will change year to year). So

#1. Ask yourself what your priorities are. What should get more time and attention, and what can be skipped. Then actually decline things that don’t fit in. Remember saying yes to one thing means saying no to another. So if you are saying yes to a meaningful, non-stressed Christmas, you’ll need to say no to things that don’t fit.

We do a daily advent calendar with our kids. Starting on December 1st there are 25 Christmas activities we do to purposefully bring meaning to the season. In years past I was trying to go big and make everyday huge. I guess I thought that big and extravagant meant meaningful and impactful. However, all it did was create stress, work, and failed advent days. Although it’s purpose was good, to focus on the real reason we celebrate, it’s execution was an epic fail! So we simplified. It’s important to focus on Christ and the outreach that this season can bring, so we stuck with those basics. We only do one Random Act of Kindness each week. We read the Christmas story throughout, we make time for family movie nights where we can cuddle together and have family closeness. We discuss the elements of Christmas. We purposefully set aside moments to reflect on the awe-inspiring focal point of the season… Jesus.

#2. Plan ahead for quiet, meaningful moments to give yourself time to reflect on the WHYs of the season. **To do this, you have to do #1

Many years ago we had to make the decision not to participate in extended family gift exchange. We had already decided that with our kids we were going to downplay the gift aspect of Christmas anyway. But the extended family (Our siblings, and all of their kids) was growing way bigger than we could ever keep up with financially. So we asked that we choose other ways to celebrate instead of buying gifts. Gift giving is fun. It’s one of the biggest highlights of Christmas Day. Jesus was our ultimate gift, and giving gifts has always been a reflection of that and extending the “giving” spirit Jesus had. But the financial burden those gifts heap on the gift giver can suck the joy right out of the season. For our 4 children, they receive 3 gifts on Christmas. We model these gifts after the gifts the wise men gave to Jesus. Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Our kids do not make a wish list. They can add anything they want to a birthday list, but for Christmas we focus on giving, not receiving. The gold gift is something fun that they’ll enjoy; A toy usually. The frankincense gift is something that will aid in their spiritual walk; Bible, devotional, Christian movie, Christian artwork. The myrrh gift is a gift for their bodies; usually clothing. They spend their own money and draw a sibling to buy for… again, to teach them about giving. We can not afford to give gifts to all our friends. With being the pastor of the church, we would just have too many friends to buy for. Instead we opt out of that type of gift giving and we host an informal christmas party where we cook goodies for our friends and make time to sit and BE PRESENT with them.

My sister hosts a really nice dinner for her friends as a gift. It may cost her and her husband some time, and a tad bit more to their grocery budget, but the gift is a fabulous meal and some good quality time. Gifts do not have to be material in order to be meaningful. Keep in mind that although giving is better than receiving you will soon receive the bills for all of those gifts!

#3 Give within your means. Be creative, but don’t stress. Plan ahead for your kids so you can catch an item they may love while it’s on sale. You can give and still teach your kids that it’s not the primary part of Christmas.

We typically host or prepare 4 Christmas parties. We have a personal one where we have a Christmas open house that is “come and go” in style. We invite people in all of our different areas of life. From our neighborhood, our church, our workplaces. We have a small intimate dinner as a gift to our deacons. I host the Women’s Ministry gathering and gift exchange. These three are in our home. The last one is the annual Christmas dinner at church following our kids church program. I love every single gathering. I love that we can have a large amount of people pass through our home. They don’t come at the same time, they don’t all leave at the same time, so I get the chance to talk to most without feeling like I left anyone out (Pastor’s wife’s problems!). I love our deacon dinner where we can express our thanks to an amazing leadership team! I love love love our women’s gathering. The giggles and fellowship is unmatched anywhere else! And I ADORE seeing our entire church family sharing a meal, and some fun games together. But hosting all these things can zap a person’s energy! To combat the stress that comes along with that, I do #1 (plan out all the events that are meaningful). Then I make my “needs” list. I make the shopping lists, the ingredients list, the gifts list all before Thanksgiving. By December 1st I have every meal we will eat for the rest of the year planned and the various grocery lists made. I can look at my calendar and know that if our Advent calendar is going to have us making christmas cookies, that I will have the christmas cookie ingredients. If the calendar says we have our church dinner the next day, then I know I already have dessert and side dish ingredients in the cupboard ready for the event. Gifts for various gift exchanges have already been planned out. When each gift can be bought within the budget is all planned… before Thanksgiving. This frees up the days for the fun of the season without the stress of not being prepared.

#4 Be prepared. Line up your events with the items you’ll need in advance so you’re prepared to enjoy and not stress. 

When we host a party, or attend a party, we want to fellowship. We want to socialize. We do not want to be standing over the stove while our guests are laughing and making memories. Nor do we want to attend a party where we never get to see the host. So if our party starts at 3, we have everything done and ready by 2:30/2:45 so we can greet our guests at the door, and socialize with them for the duration of the party. We also accept help, or ask for help so that we can all enjoy the party together. For our women’s gathering I will have ladies come and help me set up. I will also allow them help me clean up afterwards. If they are offering, they want to help. (if you don’t want to help, don’t offer! haha). We do not prepare the church food ourselves, we ask that everyone bring something to share. It’s more important to be together at christmas than to run around frazzled entertaining!

#5 Use time management so you can be present at your own parties. And accept and ask for help! Value relationship over perfection. Dismiss etiquette for friendships.

And lastly, take a deep breath, look around at every chance and praise God for the blessing. Again, if you can’t do that you need to revisit #1. If you hate Christmas caroling in the frozen tundra where your hands never get warm the rest of the season… and you can’t stop mid carol and capture a joyous moment… choose to skip the Christmas Caroling next year (can you tell this is not my favorite thing to do?!) Just as Mary sat and watched the festivities that first Christmas day, just as she decided to sit and ponder all these things, we, too should take the time amidst the chaos to marvel in all Christ has done for us. He came from heaven to earth to be our Way, our Life, our Savior. And for THAT, we celebrate!

#6- CELEBRATE… Celebrate by keeping Jesus the focal point. Bring Him glory this Christmas season.

The list can go on and on. But ultimately we mustn’t forget that the season should be a season of celebration of Jesus’s becoming Emmanuel, God with us. When we gather with friends and family it should be as a light shining for Jesus. When we offer gifts it should be to represent the gift of Jesus’ presence. When we partake of the Christmas festivities we should take the time to ponder just how blessed we are to be able to celebrate the gift of all gifts– Jesus

What are some ways you keep increase the celebration and decrease the chaos, I’d love to hear from you in the comments area.