Almost There

Advent brings with it the anticipation of a celebration. The word “advent” means: “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” I did not grow up in a church that celebrated Advent or lit candles, so I am later in coming around to the traditions surrounding it. For those of you who may also wonder about the celebration of Advent, the season is ushered in the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and with it begins a spiritual countdown of sorts to Christmas Day: the arrival of Christ.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It is fitting, with the anticipation of Christ’s coming, that the Advent candle lit on the first Sunday of December symbolizes hope. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Israelite people had been waiting a L-O-N-G time for the Messiah to come. They had long carried hope for what had been promised to them by the prophets. Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9: 6-7 ESV

700 years! That is a long time to wait for a promise. One generation passed their hope on to the next, verbally telling and retelling the old stories and prophecies. Generations died, and new ones were formed, and still they waited. Finally, the beginnings of change arrived in the form of small miracles foretelling the Messiah’s arrival:

  • The angel Gabriel appears (Luke 1:19, & 1:28)
  • A priest mysteriously goes mute (Luke 1:20)
  • A barren woman is suddenly with child (Luke 1:24)
  • A small baby leaps in the womb (Luke 1:41)
  • Angels are found singing in the sky (Luke 2:13)

These miracles were not broadly publicized. Most Israelites had no idea they had even occurred. After hundreds of years of waiting, baby Jesus arrived with little fanfare or celebration.

The chosen Messiah certainly did not come in the way that the Jewish people had expected. They had been waiting in hope for a Savior who, as Isaiah had prophesied, would come and set up his own government. They were living under Roman rule and felt oppressed. They wanted a strong leader to come and save them, not an innocent babe arriving practically unannounced. Their vision was too small. They wanted to be rid of Roman rule, and God had bigger plans. Jesus didn’t rid the Jews of Roman rule. Instead, He banished sin and death itself, providing salvation for all people. God’s ways of delivering on His promises often look very different from our expectations.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Advent is a time of reflecting on Christ’s arrival 2,000 years ago, but did you know that Advent also continues in the present? We are not just celebrating a past event, we are anticipating what is to come! Jesus has promised he is coming back again, and we can fervently await his coming. The hope of Advent continues today!

As I write about Advent this Christmas season, I want to make the experience multi-sensory. Advent is a time for meditation and worship, and using more of our senses enriches that experience. For this reason, I will be including a song in each Advent blog post that parallels with the week’s topic. Almost There, written by Michael W. Smith and sung by Amy Grant, is a beautiful song all about waiting in hope. Enjoy!

Pause: Take a moment to still and quiet your mind. Listen to the song above, then read Isaiah 9: 1-7. Allow yourself to slow down enough to really meditate on the words.

Renew: What are you waiting for this Christmas season? What does Hope mean to you this Advent? Take time to think, pray, or journal about how Christ’s coming has changed the world and how it has changed you.

Next: In the busyness of the Christmas season, it is sometimes difficult to focus on Christ. Think of ways that you can live out Hope this Christmas season. Maybe it will be in the form of beginning an Advent tradition with your family or perhaps in loving a neighbor who is grieving and has lost their own hope this Christmas. Pray and use your imagination!

May you be filled with Hope this Advent season.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Burning Timber

For decades, a beautiful white pine has stood guard next to our home. It has withstood storms, snow, wind, and even a tornado. This summer however, we noticed a strange sound emerging from within its trunk and limbs. The distinct sounds of chewing could be heard from yards away, yet as closely as we looked, we could see no creatures eating it. Two friends who are knowledgeable about wood and trees mentioned that the culprit was most likely pine beetles.

Because our family has had a busy autumn, we put off dealing with the issue. As weeks passed, large swaths of the tree turned from green to brown. In quiet moments, we could still hear the gentle and persistent chewing. My husband spoke to his father about helping him chop it down whenever he had a free weekend.

One afternoon, a couple of weeks ago, I heard a chainsaw rev up. When I looked out of the window, there was my father-in-law, carefully sawing down the tree. My husband came out to help, and within the hour, I felt (more than heard) a mighty crash. Timber! The mighty tree had fallen.

The tree was almost as wide as I am tall!

This however, was only the first step, as the giant of a tree still needed to be destroyed. Because it was infested with pine beetles, it was necessary to burn each and every part of the tree, to prevent the insects from spreading to surrounding healthy trees.

Beginning with the trunk, we began burning. My husband worked for hours, sawing and throwing limb after limb into the fire. After the first day, only a fraction of the tree was destroyed. So far, we have burned for 3 days, have a bonfire scheduled next week, and still there is tree left to destroy. It will be a lengthy process.

As I watched the blaze last Saturday, the phrase “our God is a consuming fire,” came to my mind. I realized that a spiritual analogy can be found in our white pine. When sin, like pine beetles, infests our lives, the contamination is gradual. Days, months, or years can pass before the damage is evident. Still, the result is the same: disease and death. Like my father-in-law, the Lord comes and, in one fell move, chops the tree down to its roots. We are saved!

Even though salvation is immediate, the process of removing sin from our lives is life-long. When the Lord saves us, the Holy Spirit takes months, years, or decades to do the slow work of purifying our hearts. Piece by piece, branch by branch, he burns and purifies the rotting, parasite-filled parts of our lives.

The process of refinement is not always easy. Discipline and purification can be painful, but how thankful I am that the Lord takes His time. He is a consuming fire but has all of the patience He needs to carry out His purposes with mercy, day by day.

Pause: Find a quiet moment, and read Hebrews 12. What about this passage stands out to you?

Renew: Take a moment and reflect on your own journey with the Lord. Can you think of ways that you’ve seen the Lord slowly transform your life? What was that process like for you? If you have not yet given your life to Christ, take the plunge and watch what He will do!

Next: Be mindful this week, reflecting on how the Lord has been refining your mind, your relationships, and your behavior. Remember that transformation is slow and is not always a linear process.

May we be filled with gratitude for how our God is faithful to consume the sin that seeks to destroy us.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Hope: An Anchor for the Soul

Years ago, I felt the Lord whisper a promise in my soul.  It was a sweet promise of a gift that would come. He did not tell me how.  He did not tell me when. Somehow I just knew it was true though. I could feel it in my heart.

I prayed off and on for years over the matter.  I prepared myself both in my spirit and in practical ways, waiting for the moment it would occur, but it never did.  Just when I would begin to think I had made the whole thing up, somehow the Lord would confirm it to me again through Scripture or a sermon.  One time, he even confirmed it through a conversation with a stranger while on vacation. Still, time passed, and nothing happened.  

This month, during a vulnerable conversation with a friend I confided in her this promise the Lord had whispered.  Rather than shaking her head in disbelief, she said, “I have a similar story,” and as she shared it, it really did seem that our stories aligned closely.  Happily, her whispered promise is in the process of coming into fruition.

Honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it anymore.  I don’t even pray about it regularly. I know that, if it is to happen, the Lord will bring it about, and it probably will come about differently than I expect anyway.

This makes me think of Abraham.  The Lord gave him and his wife a promise of something that seemed impossible: a baby in their sunset years.  What seemed ridiculous at age 75 must have seemed unimaginable as he approached ages 80, 85, 90, and 95. Perhaps he thought he had imagined the whole thing.  In fact, because the waiting was too hard, and his faith was so small, he and his wife set out to accomplish the Lord’s will in their own timing. Abraham had a son with his wife’s handmaid. We all know how that turned out. Trying to accomplish God’s will for Him is foolish indeed.

Finally, at age 100, Abraham’s promised son arrived.  He was the beginning of a long-awaited line of chosen people, through whom the Lord would send His Son.  He was worth the wait.

In Hebrews 6, the author references Abraham’s story as he writes about inheriting a promise. However, this time, a more permanent promise is spoken of using the language of hope:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner…

Hebrews 6: 19 – 20a CSB

We have reason to hope. As believers, we have hope in a great promise that includes redemption, forgiveness, new bodies, and eternal life. Jesus has entered before us, and hope anchors our soul as we wait for what is coming.  Hope is a beautiful thing. It rises up and holds our souls steady as we wait for the promise to be fulfilled.

Our anchor of Hope is solid. it’s not going anywhere.

Pause: Inhale and exhale slowly.  Find a quiet space to read Hebrews 6: 13-20.  Meditate on these verses. What stands out to you?

Renew: Think about hope as an anchor for the soul.  What are you hoping for? Who are you hoping in? How is thinking about hope as an anchor for your soul reassuring?

Next: Hebrews encourages us to “seize the hope set before us.”  How in your faith walk can you “seize hope” this week? Is it by clinging to a particular Scripture verse,  by praying through a seemingly impossible situation, or by acting obediently on something the Lord has called you to do?  

May we cling tightly to our anchor of hope.

Pause, Renew, Next!

When Grief Wells Up

There I was, listening to two first graders give a family presentation in front of their classmates when out of the blue, grief smacked me hard in the belly.  During their presentation, the girls shared that they had been born in 2013. Just like that, I was transported back in time, to a miscarriage I experienced that year. Incredulously, I realized that my baby would now be in kindergarten.  He or she could be giving a class presentation. Grief is funny like that. It comes in waves unexpectedly and reels us backwards into the past, allowing old feelings and sometimes tears to spring to the surface at the most inconvenient times.

I had a similar experience a few weeks ago while at an OB/GYN appointment. I was left in the examination room waiting for the doctor when, from the room next door, I heard the familiar whooshing, horse-beat sounds of a baby’s heartbeat.  Again, I felt emotions normally buried come rising to the surface with memories of the last time I heard a heart beat monitor…

I was at my first prenatal exam, and it was a routine ultrasound.  I had given birth to healthy babies three times, and there was no reason to expect that this fourth pregnancy would not be the same… …until I heard the heartbeat.  It was strong. It was steady, but it sounded unnaturally slow. I looked at the ultrasound technician, who agreed that it was slower than it should be. I was then ushered in to see the midwife, who was not gentle about preparing me for the worst.  Very little hope was offered. I was scheduled to return in a week for a follow-up ultrasound.

You can imagine what an awful week I had.  I left the appointment hysterically crying into my phone, telling my husband the news.  Over the following week, I felt every emotion possible: from hope, to gratitude, to sadness, to despair, to fear, to anger, and back again.  Mother’s Day happened to fall in the middle of that week, which definitely did not help matters.

Finally, I returned for my follow up appointment, this time bringing my husband for support.  There was no heartbeat. There were no longer any signs of life in the same womb, where the week before, I had seen my child and heard her heartbeat.

We were crushed. We grieved.  We cried. We explained the best we could to our children. We wrote a letter to our unborn baby, and packed her ultrasound pictures and the letters away. 

Soon, we began to prepare for a new future: one in which new life would come to our home through foster care and adoption. Hope was ushered in. Life continued.  New life was celebrated. Gratitude was felt.

Still, I think about the baby I lost.  I think about her when I think about heaven.  What will it be like to meet? I think about her at Christmas, because her due date was Christmas Eve.  I think about her when other friends are having babies. I do not grieve as one who has no hope. It isn’t something I think about every day, but it is imprinted on my soul. The Lord taught me much about His comfort through my loss.

So, for those of you who have also lost a baby, know that you are not alone. We are the 1 in 4.  Grieve. Tell your story. Reach out. It’s a grief that not enough people talk about, but many have experienced.  It is a grief that can be triggered unexpectedly and will touch your soul forever. May you be comforted by a Savior who counts every tear, and who loves your baby as much as you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-5

Pause, Renew, Next!

What’s In a Number?

There was a time that I was a slave to the number on the scale. That number dictated my mood, my motivation, and my self-worth. Numbers of calories took up way too much mental and emotional space. Those numbers related to how much food I could eat, how much food I wouldn’t eat, or how much I needed to exercise. I knew the number of calories in various foods and could add or subtract them in my sleep. I was a slave to the numbers.

There was a time that I was a slave to the number on a scale.

Thankfully, those numbers hold less power over me at this stage in my life. In fact, rarely do I pay much attention to those numbers anymore. Still, I have found other numbers can quickly take precedence in my mind. The number in my bank account. The number of an upcoming bill. The number of days left until vacation. The number of friends who RSVP’d to my party. Numbers seem to take up a lot of my mental space.

In this season of life, however, the numbers I seem to focus on most are the number of friends, followers, and likes I have on social media. I’m not proud to admit it, but it’s the truth. I have a love/hate relationship with social media for all of the reasons that most people do. On the positive side, it means instant access to my friends, even those I don’t get to see in everyday life. Also, from a ministry aspect, it means I have an instant platform from which to advertise and reach an audience I may never see in real life.

Numbers of likes and follows can also become a source of bondage in the desire for approval.

On the other hand, social media stirs in me a constant desire for likes and approval. There is an addictive quality of needing to check and recheck, and, before I know it, my time has been wasted. Minutes and hours lost on social media are also numbers.

Numbers are not inherently bad. They are in fact just measurements. It’s what I am measuring, and the significance I place on the numbers that can turn them into a form of idolatry. An ideal number can quickly become bondage. God knows that our hearts are idol factories, and Jesus kindly warns us in the Sermon on the Mount:

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

Matthew 6: 19-21 NASB

How then, can we break the habit of getting caught up in the number cycle? We can begin by recognizing when we’re allowing ourselves to be controlled by them. For instance, when I find myself discouraged by numbers of followers or listeners, I tell myself that God can change the world with one individual, and if even one individual is encouraged or inspired, then all of the hard work was worth it. I can tell myself that my worth is not defined by likes on social media. When I’m worried about my bank account, I can remember all of the times the Lord has provided for me before and how He promises He will take care of all of my needs according to His riches in glory. My worth and security cannot be tied to how much money I have, my weight, or my number of followers.

It’s all about a perspective shift. Numbers are only numbers after all. They’re only measurements. They are not the treasure, and they will always disappoint. The treasure is Christ, and He means for us to enjoy the gifts we have been given, including our bodies, our friends, and our resources. Let’s not let the numbers take away our joy.

Pause: Breathe in and breathe out. Focus on the exhale. Read the above Scripture passage from Matthew and meditate on it for a few minutes.

Renew: Is there a place in your life where you are placing too much focus on numbers? What do those numbers represent for you? How have they become an idol or a kind of bondage for you?

Next: If you find that there is an area in your life that numbers have become too important to you, pray this week about how the Lord can change your perspective. Seek out a source of accountability for yourself so you don’t have to carry it alone.

May we store up treasure in heaven and enjoy the gifts we’ve been given!

Pause, Renew, Next!

Endurance, Running, and Hope

I hate to run. Running is hard on the body, but it’s also hard on the mind. There was a phase in high school when I gave running a chance. As an uncompetitive freshman, track seemed like the best fit. I knew I could at least put one foot in front of the other, so I decided to give it a try. Because I didn’t seem to have the build of a sprinter, I ended up in the long distance division.

The greatest perk of that track season, besides building some pretty decent calf muscles, was that my best friend joined the track team too. This made practices not just tolerable, but fun. While the rest of the track team ran ahead, we would intentionally fall behind and jog slow enough to carry on a conversation.

photo by Bruno Nascimento

If my friend happened to miss a practice or if the coach caught on to my game, I had to actually apply myself and work hard. At these times, I had to convince myself to keep moving even though I wanted to stop after every milestone. For every step, I battled the internal voice to quit, slow down, or rationalize my way out of the last mile. Then came the track meet. No longer was I trying to slow down and talk. There were too many people watching and too much at stake! Unlike practice, the race was a performance.

Because I had not pushed myself during practices, I did not have the competitive edge and stamina I needed to win the race. Without doing the practice necessary, I lacked the mental and physical endurance to perform well under pressure.

So it is in spiritual matters. In Philippians, the Apostle Paul likens the Christian journey to a race, and races require endurance. When I consider spiritual endurance, persecuted Christians in other countries come to mind, but endurance can also show up in other life circumstances.

For instance, endurance might look like the daily struggle of single parenting or surviving the slow, steady thrum of chronic pain. It might look like bearing up under a hard relationship or dutifully showing up at a job you despise so that you can pay the bills. Endurance comes in many forms.

Spiritual endurance is forged in uncomfortable or painful circumstances. Endurance means long-suffering. It means having grit. It means holding on and setting your face like flint to finish the job. Honestly, endurance sometimes means weakly holding on and praying for the strength to keep going.

I did gain some helpful tools during my time on the track team, one of which was a breathing technique. I learned to breathe in time with my feet hitting the pavement. In this way, the pace was set, and I found a rhythm I could sustain to the end of the race.

Romans 5

As Romans 5 (above) assures us, through endurance character is developed. The end result of building character is hope, and God promises that His hope will not disappoint or put us to shame. So, in whatever circumstance you find yourself enduring, pound the pavement, set the pace, breathe in and out, pray, and keep going, friends. His hope will not disappoint.

Pause: Breathe in and exhale slowly. Read and meditate on Romans 5:1-5. What do you take away from this passage?

Renew: Think about a circumstance in your life that the Lord has used or is using to build your endurance. Can you see character and hope forming through that circumstance?

Next: Pray this week for someone you know who is in a long-suffering situation. Consider writing them a note of encouragement or calling to check in with them.

May the Lord strengthen our faith and build our endurance muscles.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Raising a Generation of Bible-Loving Kids

Unlike my usual blog posts, that focus on 3 principles: Pause, Renew, and Next, this blog post centers on the Next part: practically putting faith into action. Specifically, this post is about how to put faith into action in our homes, and nurture a love of God’s Word in our children.

One of the most important elements of passing faith to the next generation is inspiring a genuine love of God’s Word. No, this is not a how-to article, written by an expert giving you a step-by-step guide of how to do just that. Rather, it’s an honest look at what is working in our home, starting with a few fun resources that my four boys love!

The Action Bible

This fun, beautifully illustrated, comic-book style Bible is a hit in our home. When our children opened it for Christmas one year, they could not put it down. You know it’s a winner when you find them reading on the couch for fun, at a time they could have been playing. There have even been occasions when one of my children has told me about Bible stories that I couldn’t remember teaching them. When I asked where they learned that story, often it was the Action Bible that taught them.

The Action Bible is exciting, bringing Bible stories to life for young readers.

This comic book has inspired a passion in my boys for the stories, characters, and plot line of the Word of God. They come back to it over and over, so in my book it’s a winner.

Seeds Family Worship

Every year at Christmas, my husband and I give our children each three gifts that represent the gifts the Wisemen brought Jesus: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Gold is the fun gift, Frankincense is something they will wear, and Myrrh is a spiritual gift. One year, for their spiritual gift, I gave each of my boys a Seeds Family Worship CD. We were so pleased to discover that each song was written directly from Bible verses. The best part: the songs were actually fun to listen to!

This is just one of many Seeds Family Worship albums that my family loves!

Unlike a lot of Children’s music, the songs aren’t cheesy. They are catchy, however. Once, one of my kids complained that a Seeds Family Worship song was stuck in his head. I responded, “Great, I’m glad to know that Bible verse is in your mind.” Without trying, he had memorized Scripture!

The Daily Audio Bible

The Daily Audio Bible for Kids is such an easy, accessible, and attention-sustaining way for children to hear the Bible.

One of our family’s newest traditions is quickly becoming a household favorite. We listen to the Daily Audio Bible for Kids each night before our boys go to bed. My husband and I have both listened to the Daily Audio Bible app for years. Recently, we discovered there’s a kid version of the app, in which a child reads one chapter of the Bible per day. My kids love listening to another kid read to them. While the adult app reads more Scripture and loses their attention, the kid’s version is only one chapter per day, so they listen much more attentively. Sometimes my oldest son reads along while he listens. I give a big thumbs up for this app, as it presents the Bible to our entire family and ends our day with time in God’s Word.

The Beginners Bible

The Beginner’s Bible is a gentle and fun introduction to the Bible through stories.

We have the Beginner’s Bible on CD, and my third-born child loves to listen to the stories as we drive. As a younger sibling, he sometimes spends hours in the van, accompanying his brothers to school and various appointments. Listening to these Bible stories as we drive is a great way to not only fill up time, but also instill a love of God and His Word.

Of course, the most important way to instill a love of God’s Word in our children is to love it ourselves. Let your children catch you reading the Bible. Share what you’re learning with them in conversation. Ask them what they’ve been learning in Sunday School or Children’s church. Talk about Scripture around the dinner table, in the car, or while taking a walk. Your kids seeing that your faith is real and active is a key element in desiring it for themselves. No one wants a regimen. We all desire authenticity and relationship – with God and with each other.

The list above is not exhaustive, but these are a few resources our family is loving. Feel free to try them out for yourself and pass them on. If you have other ideas, music, books, or apps that your family enjoys, please comment below or share on PRN’s Facebook page! We are in this thing together friends, and raising a new generation of believers is a gift and a calling. Let’s spur each other on!

Pause, Renew, Next!

Unexpected Blessings

It was a Saturday morning, and I was being spontaneous. Rather than cooking breakfast, I had decided to surprise my family with donuts. So, I rolled out of bed, threw my probably unbrushed hair up, and drove to a local grocery store. Because it was early in the morning, I was betting on the fact that I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. In my rush to get back and present the donuts to my hungry boys, I hadn’t taken time to make myself look presentable. I hadn’t even brushed my teeth. This was going to be a fast mission: get in and out of the grocery store and back home to my hungry boys.

Yum! Saturday morning donuts!
Photo by Cecília Tommasini from Pexels

My mission was almost accomplished, when I noticed an older lady standing in front of me at the checkout line. Unfortunately, she seemed friendly and open to conversation. I purposefully did not make eye contact, hoping to avoid all opportunity for chatting. Then, I made the mistake of looking up. She jumped at the opportunity:

“That color looks lovely on you,” she said.

I cringed a little. There I was trying to be inconspicuous with my un-put-together self, and she had noticed me anyway. I responded, “Thank you.” From there we chatted about the contents of her grocery order. Then the conversation took a turn, as she shared that because her husband had dementia she rarely left the house, except to buy groceries.

In that moment, my priorities shifted. No longer feeling inconvenienced, my heart was full of compassion. These, as I have come to know them, are God-ordained moments. She was aching with loneliness and desperately in need of eye contact and conversation. Besides me, she might not get to talk to anyone else for the rest of the day. I spoke with her for a few more minutes as her groceries were being checked out, and then we parted ways. I prayed for her and thought about the encounter on the way home. Our conversation had blessed her, but I realized that it had also blessed me.

In focusing on my own agenda and my own self-consciousness about my state of disarray, I had almost missed a divine moment. The thing is, I probably miss them all the time. I’ll admit, I’m often distracted, thinking about other things, or looking at my phone. Then, sometimes, the Lord nudges me out of my own musings into an unexpected blessing.

Isn’t He merciful? He blesses us and equips us for every encounter He brings our way.

The encounter in the grocery store did not require an extensive resume of skill. Apparently, it didn’t even require great hygiene. It required time, eye contact, and the willingness to be present, even for a few moments. However, other opportunities the Lord brings our way may take more time, skill, and work. Regardless, the verse above promises that He blesses us abundantly and will, at all times, give us what we need to abound in the good works He has called us to do. Now, that is a reassuring promise!

Pause: Take a deep breath and find a comfortable position. Read over 2 Corinthians 9:8 (above) a few times. Maybe even read it aloud. What stands out to you about that verse?

Renew: Take a few moments to reflect on a time in your life that the Lord presented you with an opportunity, small or large, that turned out to be an unexpected blessing. How did He equip you and bless you through that opportunity?

Next: As you go throughout your day, pray that the Lord would give you eyes to see opportunities and blessings. Then, wait to see what happens as your day progresses. Write down any stories that unfold throughout the day.

May we have eyes to see the Lord’s unexpected blessings in our lives!

Pause, Renew, Next!

Why Start a Podcast?

I’ll admit, starting a podcast is a unique and time-intensive hobby. Podcasting is not for the weak of heart. It requires time and commitment: time to line up interviews, time to sit down and record, time to edit content, time to write and publish show notes, and time to advertise and promote on social media. It is logical then to assume that there must be some underlying reason for pursuing this endeavor.

There certainly is! In fact, Pause, Renew, Next is in some ways like a “burning fire shut up in my bones.” I feel an inexplicable compulsion to pursue it. With that being stated, let me explain my vision and intention in producing the Pause, Renew, Next Podcast.

In my blog, I focus on three elements, for which PRN is named: Pause, Renew, Next.

  • Pause – pausing to allow our brains to be still and quiet from the constant outside noise and demands
  • Renew – spending time with the Lord, allowing His Word to transform and renew our minds
  • Next – putting our faith, knowledge, and transformation into action

There are certainly elements of all three of those themes in the podcast as well, but in the podcast I focus on them from the perspective of soul care and stories of faith. Here’s why:

As a counselor, I am privileged to sit with and hold people’s stories. I recognize that it is a gift to be entrusted with the elements of people’s lives, stories, thoughts, and faith journeys. (There’s something about the confidentiality of counseling that breeds trust and vulnerability!) Many of the stories I have been privileged to hear in my counseling office have been an encouragement to me as a listener.

In churches, in families, and in communities we can also benefit from sharing our faith stories with one another. Hearing other people’s struggles, questions, and faith journeys can help bolster us in our own walk with the Lord. It allows us to be more transparent about our weaknesses and doubts, knowing that we’re not alone. Unfortunately, not everyone is in a space where they feel safe or brave enough to share their own faith stories.

Through this podcast, I am thankful to be able to give a platform for Godly women to share their stories. Although each guest covers a different topic, there is a commonality that runs through each interview: vulnerability, passion, honesty, and a desire to share what the Lord is teaching them personally. There’s something about a real-life story that cuts through the “shoulds” and the shame that we could be doing better, to realize that we’re all humans doing the messy and hard work of this journey called faith.

Sure, there are other podcasts available in which women are able to share their stories. In fact, I listen to and enjoy some of those podcasts regularly myself. What sets PRN apart is that the women on this podcast are not necessarily well known or famous. Most of my guests have never and will never write a book or go on a speaking circuit, yet their knowledge and experience is just as valid as those who do have a more well-known platform from which to speak.

So, what is my vision for the PRN Podcast?

  1. To encourage those who are running the race of faith. The gate and path to Life is narrow. The journey requires endurance. Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and die to self, and that is hard work. Sometimes the race involves suffering, and we find ourselves no longer sprinting but limping instead. Hearing from others who are also running the race can be just the breath of fresh air we need to keep up our pace.
  2. To promote the importance of soul care. In our fast-paced society, we rarely take the time to care for our bodies and brains. Forget the soul – we’re just trying to survive! By implementing the practice of pausing, renewing, and applying our faith into a “next” step of action, we are taking time to care for all of the layers of the self: body, relationships, mind, and spirit.

To all of you who have supported PRN verbally or through social media, have been a guest on the podcast, have rated it on iTunes, given a positive review, or spread the word by sharing with others – Thank you! I so appreciate each and every one of you.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus!

Pause, Renew, Next!

A Reluctant Servant

I am a big picture idealist. Reality and details drag me down. This makes it difficult for me to muddle through mundane tasks and focus on seemingly meaningless work, such as loading the dishwasher, folding laundry, or cleaning the bathroom sink. Sure, I know those tasks need to be done, but they just feel like drudgery. Contrast that with comforting someone who is hurting, recording a podcast, or getting together for a Bible study. These options feel much more meaningful to me and worthy of my time and attention.

There is a lie that our culture believes, and often I struggle not to believe it myself: follow your dreams and passions, for this will bring you happiness. Although there is much to be said for working hard for your dreams and knowing what you are passionate about, these things do not guarantee happiness. What about all of the moments spent doing the hard things? Or moments that seem insignificant altogether? Sometimes worship happens in the mundane moments. These moments too can bring joy, but they are not always accompanied by an emotional high.

For example, a few years ago, I remember enjoying a sweet moment of worship while driving down the road. Overcome with emotion, I lifted my hand and belted out the words to a worship song. Oh, my heart swelled with love for God. It was at that exact moment, that a child called to me from the backseat.

“What do you need?!! I was worshiping!,” came my impatient reply.

Wow. I felt convicted on the spot. What message was I sending my child? Would Jesus have said that? No way. He was willing to be available and to meet the needs of others even when it felt mundane. Even when he probably would have rather been communing with His Father. In fact, it seems to me that much of His worship was humbling himself and serving, in obedience to His Father. Obedience and service can be acts of worship too.

Obedience. Servitude. Those are not words that bring up heartwarming emotions, yet with these elements God brought His Kingdom to earth.

With which attitude will I perform the mundane tasks of life: begrudgingly or with humility?

In this season of life, I am learning that each moment, each action, each inaction, can be an act of worship. Reluctantly, I’m reminded that servitude can be a piece of that too. Motherhood for instance, is the largest act of servitude I have ever before experienced. Much of it is filled with mundane tasks – reading the same book, brushing the same little teeth, filling the same dishwasher over and over and over and over. These tasks must be done. The question is, with which attitude will I complete them? My natural attitude is to do them begrudgingly, but I have the option to do them with humility instead, as an act of love to my family and God.

Of this, I will need to be reminded minute by minute. (No really, each minute.) Every moment has an opportunity to help build His Kingdom here on earth. Every moment counts…even the mundane ones.

Pause: Take a moment to quiet your spirit. Take a deep belly breath and exhale. When you feel settled, read Philippians 2:1-11. What do you take away from this passage about servitude, humility, obedience, and worship?

Renew: In what areas do worship and service come easily for you? Which parts of life feel more like drudgery? Ask the Lord to change your attitude and see those acts with a fresh perspective.

Next: Over the coming week, be aware of your attitude towards the people and tasks in your life. Find moments to give thanks for each, and consider how each might glorify God and benefit His Kingdom.

May we see each moment as a gift!

Pause, Renew, Next!