Rooted & Ready

Autumn seems to be a favourite season for many women. The dip in temperature, rich colours, cozy sweaters, conversations by firelight all point to the beauty of a changing season. Autumn is a time for preserving and preparing. It’s true for nature and it’s true for us.

The beauty of autumn is preparation for the slumber of winter.

While it may look like the trees are falling asleep, dropping their leaves as they nod off for winter, there is work happening beneath the ground. The trees have one final chance to push their roots deeper before the cold of winter comes. The growth is hidden where our eyes cannot see it, yet it’s essential for the trees’ lives.

Read More
When Hard Questions Have Eternal Answers

“But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10

My father was a humble, quiet man, strong and principled. He was a good father who deeply loved my mother and their four children. He was not an outwardly religious man. He did what was expected of men in his generation: he took his kids to church every Sunday and he said the blessing at meals. 

One summer my father was diagnosed with a cancer so rare that none of his doctors had ever treated it. His condition deteriorated rapidly, requiring hospitalization. Nothing was effective against the cancer’s rapid progression. But even as his overall condition worsened, my father’s spirit amazed everyone. He was his wonderful self, joking with the nurses even when he could barely breathe. 

Once we realized that my father’s condition was terminal, I prayed that God would open up an opportunity to speak openly about faith and the salvation of Jesus Christ. I knew that I might be the only person who would ask the hard question: “Dad, do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” 

Read More
God's Love for Us is a Fairy Tale Come True

Sometimes it takes a movie to help me see a Gospel truth.

It had been a particularly ragged day of parenting. The hubs was working night shift, my one year old son was restless with teething and being juuust about to walk, and my three year old daughter was being, well, three. 

After wrestling, I mean, SWEETLY TUCKING, everyone into bed, I collapsed in front of the television, tired and angry. I chose the fluffiest movie I could find and settled into watching Disney’s The Princess Diaries. I was ready to fantasize about running away from home and becoming a princess in a far-off land. 

Plus, I love the makeover scene where awkward teenager Mia Thermopolis is transformed into the beautiful princess of Genovia. Heck, I wanted a makeover.

Before long I realized the movie was about much more than fantasy. I’d forgotten about how Mia has to transform, not just from normal high schooler to royalty, but from afraid little girl to a woman who accepts responsibility and her role as a leader.

After a few days of embarrassing etiquette mishaps and paparazzi stunts, Mia learns that being a princess is not all balls and tiaras. Being a leader is difficult and confusing and she reaches a point where she is ready to run; abdicate her right to the throne and return to her normal life. However, her friend and chauffeur Joseph gives her a different perspective that changes her mind. “No one can stop being who they are, princess. Not even a princess. You are a princess by birth.”

The quote stayed with me even after I fell asleep on the couch (because #motherhood). I am so much like Mia. Motherhood is so much like royalty (stay with me, everybody!).

Read More
IdentityLaura Beth Payne
Does God Love Me?

How many times have you heard this: God loves you. We hear it in church and we read it in books. My response, and perhaps yours, has been to wonder, “Is that true for me?” 

Many of us see ourselves as ordinary women who are constantly messing up. We yell at our kids or husband and get frustrated with our in-laws. The house is a mess. On Sundays, we are surprised if we can put together a decent outfit before we leave home! We often arrive at church without an ounce of any kind of spiritual feeling left in our body. 

I’m going to go out on a limb to state that, even though we feel so very unspiritual, God loves each of us. After years of struggling, I began to embrace this truth. 

I grew up thinking that the only way God loved me was if I was a good girl and followed ALL the church rules. God’s love wasn’t on my radar. Life was all about doing it right, being perfect. I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was five, and even then it wasn’t about love. It was about wanting to go to heaven. 

I consistently feel there’s an elephant on my back (probably purple so it can’t be missed!). It’s the sum of all my fears, worries, insecurities and that “not good enough” feeling. 

Read More
IdentityJudith Barillas
Are You Serving for the Wrong Reasons?

As Christian women, there's a particularly strong pull towards serving. We feel this pull from our own expectations and from the expectations of people around us. We are expected to serve our families, our churches, our communities, our neighbors, and our friends. We are expected to be "servant-hearted" and willing to give of ourselves sacrificially to all needs and causes.

Sometimes we focus so much on those expectations that we run ourselves ragged and end up feeling bitter and exhausted.

Isn't it good to serve? Aren't we called to love others well? Absolutely. But problems arise when we serve for the wrong reasons. We need to serve and love and take action, but all of the "doing" in our lives should flow from the "being" a daughter of God. Too often our identity is insecure and clouds our ability to serve selflessly.

Read More
Distance Is The Enemy of Authentic Relationships

Several years ago, my husband and I bought a beautiful acreage that included a pond. Though the pond was partially obscured by weeping willows, I would catch glimpses of the calm blue water through my kitchen window as I washed dishes. Often I would see Canadian geese gracefully floating along the edge, though not for long as our Australian shepherd was bound to spy the beautiful creatures and give chase. 

One day, I spotted a particularly beautiful goose in our pond. As I was in a hurry with my chores, I only stole a glance. I spotted him again the next day. Surprised that our dog had not yet given chase, I took a bit of time to admire his beauty as I worked in my kitchen. Later, as I walked past the flower beds, I saw him again still floating serenely and blissfully unaware of the potential danger. 

Now it had caught my attention – rarely had I seen a goose stick around for such an extended time. Every time I caught a glimpse of him, I would pause, smile, and give thanks to God for giving me a glimpse of beauty in the midst of an ordinary day. 

Though he wouldn’t know it, this little goose became my prayer of thanksgiving every time he came into view. A little touch of heaven.

After several days of admiring him from afar, I said to my husband, “What a beautiful creature! He’s so beautiful, he looks fake!” To which my husband replied, “That’s because he is.”

Read More
Perfectionism Separates Us From God & Kills Our Growth

If there's one thing that can derail me faster than any other it's my fear of not being able to do something perfectly. This desire for perfection has impacted my relationships, my health, my education, and many other opportunities I gave up without even trying. But the one area that I see the most damage is in my spiritual life.

Maybe you can relate. Christianity holds pretty high standards. If we're supposed to be "little Christs" and Jesus Christ himself lived a perfect life, well that's a weighty responsibility.

But the truth is, God knows we are imperfect, sinful people and he never tells us we must reach perfection in our lives. That's the very reason he sent his son to die on a cross and be resurrected. He did that for us--so that we wouldn't need to live with the heavy burden of sin and imperfection. He knows that when we see perfection as our standard, we become frozen in fear and unable to move forward.

Instead of calling us to perfection, God calls us to righteousness. It is still a high standard, but one with a heavy measure of grace rather than condemnation. Righteousness is falling down and getting back up. It's realizing we messed up and choosing to lift up our chins and walk back towards God.

Righteousness always calls us closer to God, but when we strive for perfection, it drives us further away from him. When we attempt perfection in our spiritual lives, we cannot grow into the women God has made us to be.

Read More
Your Broken Past Is Not the End of Your Story

I remember sitting in the back row of church--just my second visit--as tears fell down my cheeks. I heard God's voice for the very first time. It wasn't audible or startling. It was a quiet, calm voice that echoed in my heart: You don't need to move away. You can have a new life here.

I felt peace for the very first time.

Up until that point, my most common emotions were anxiety, despair, anger, guilt, shame, bitterness, resentment, and hopelessness. There were times of manufactured happiness and excitement, but very little was truly joyful.

The rise of divorce, abuse, bullying, and harassment have weighed heavy on our culture. Kids are not afforded the luxury of happy childhoods. Boys and girls face pressure, abandonment, and bullying. These same kids grow up feeling unloved, unwanted, and unworthy.

It's no wonder we have adolescents and adults who are depressed, addicted, and suicidal. I know what it's like to question whether life will ever get better or if I will ever be worthy of that better life.

The problem is, nothing on this earth can provide the kind of hope that overcomes a past filled with pain and suffering. The only true hope we have is in God, and in His son, Jesus Christ.

Christians know that. On a head level, we've been taught that Christ is our only hope. And on a heart level, many women have experienced that moment I did--the feeling that God is real and He loves me.

So if we know that God is our only hope, that nothing on this earth can truly satisfy our need for love and purpose, then why do so many of us still feel so hopeless, even as Christians?

Read More
Where are you God?

It was 6:00 am on February 12th; my baby girl was barely 2 days old. I held her in my arms, completely grieved and at a loss as to why we were sitting in a hospital room. A nurse walked in and I looked up at her, my eyes red from crying for so many hours.

“She is starving, isn’t she? That’s why she won't stop crying?” I already knew the answer! Of course she was hungry. She was a newborn and I had not been allowed to feed her for 9 hours already due to a potential blockage in her intestine. We were waiting to be airlifted to Vancouver Children’s Hospital and I wouldn’t be able to feed her until after the surgery. She went 18 hours without eating.

The nurse sheepishly made eye contact with me. “Yes dear, she is hungry.” Though I already knew the truth, her words slammed against my heart like a boulder and I couldn’t take the pain for one second longer. I started to hyperventilate; I couldn’t breathe. It hurt too bad--I had to
move, I had to get air. It all needed to STOP.

Read More
When Self-Help Isn't Helpful

I have a love-hate relationship with self-help. I love the idea that I’m in control. I love the idea that I can take care of myself. I love the idea that if I just read the right book I can figure out my life. Yet, where it totally falls apart is when I realize that I don’t always have what it takes to be who I want to be--even with the right books and the right mindset.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that I have many strengths. But when I’m stuck, it’s because I’ve run face first into my weaknesses. How do I help myself when the very strengths I need are not what I have available?

We think of self-help as a solo act--a focusing inward towards ourselves to solve our problems. But what if self-help is not about focusing inward? What if we recognize that to get the help we need, we must look outward. To help myself, I need less of myself and more of God and others.

Read More
The Power of Scripture Engagement

Reading my bible is an emotional and powerful experience. It hasn’t always been that way.

When I became a Christian at nineteen years old, I made the mistake that a lot of people make: I opened my bible at the beginning, expecting to read it like a novel from start to finish. This continued okay for a while, but eventually, I got bored (you know exactly what I mean.) I tried to push through, but I got overwhelmed by trying to keep up with my over-committed plan. I wanted to be disciplined, but I just felt defeated. And I didn’t know why I should keep going.

All my half-hearted attempts at reading the bible amounted to a lot of guilt and feeling like I wasn’t a good Christian. I kept thinking, “Why am I struggling so much even though I love God?”

When I learned to read the bible in a different way—in a way that made scripture come alive as a conversation with God, everything changed. Now, when I read scripture, I soak in the sound of a familiar voice—the voice I open my bible and my heart for almost every day.

Read More
5 Lies We Believe About Forgiveness

We’ve gotten forgiveness all wrong in our culture. I know this because I see people, Christians even, who are trapped in their own bitterness and resentment because they have failed to embrace a life of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is difficult, and we like to think that things should be easy if we’re supposed to do them. But God asks us to take the best way, not the easiest way. I have experienced that the best is often not the easiest at all. This is particularly true for practicing forgiveness in my life.

As Christians, we're aware that God tells us to forgive one another but knowing how, when, or why to forgive can be confusing. We often approach forgiveness from a human perspective instead of God's perspective, which causes us to believe lies regarding forgiveness. These lies cause us to bear a burden of bitterness instead of embracing the beautiful freedom we receive through forgiveness.

God is always for our good, and if he tells us that we should pursue forgiveness then we are wise to listen. So, let's break down some of the lies we believe so we can live in the fullness of God's truth.

Read More
The Future Won't Solve Present Problems

As I sat in my favourite chair on my back deck, laptop open and ready to book our fall vacation, I marveled at the way time stood still that day. I remember looking at the clock several times throughout the day and each time I sighed with satisfaction that it was "only 1 o'clock" or "only 5 o'clock."

Because in this season of my life, in this culture of speed and productivity, time slips through my fingertips like sand in an hourglass. I can't hold onto time; it keeps moving without me whether I am ready or not.

I didn't always have this same appreciation for slowing down time.

Several years ago when we booked our first vacation for just the two of us, I remember counting the days. I looked forward into the future as a way to pull me forward through time faster. It seemed like November would never come. I fixed my eyes on a future escape to help me cope with my present.

The problem is, that thing we want, that thing we think will solve our problems, it never does. Not really. That raise doesn't make our financial stress disappear. That vacation doesn't make life's demands more manageable. That bigger house with more space doesn't make us more loving. That different church doesn't make all our questions and doubts disappear.

The future won't solve present problems.

Read More
Finding Joy in Suffering

It was August 15th, 2016. I was 20 weeks pregnant with my third baby. My two boys and I were up in Canada from San Diego visiting my family. As we left San Diego, I knew something was strange with my husband, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

We had an uphill marriage since the start—the emotional abuse, separate lives, constant absence in the home, control, and lies. We were no strangers to dysfunction. For years I put on a brave face and pretended everything was ok. But behind closed doors, I was a shell of a person and in complete denial of how badly I was being treated. 

Even so, I never predicted the freight train that was coming my way.

My walk with Christ had awakened the year prior and my heart was on fire for God. I was believing for a miracle in my marriage and I felt the gift of this new baby was God’s promise that everything was going to be ok. I was reading marriage books, praying over and for my husband, actively pursuing the Lord so I could change, and I surrendered my husbands need for changing to God. I so desperately craved godly change in our lives. I was committed and hopeful.

So I was blindsided by the phone call I received while my kids and I were with my parents. My husband's voice on the other end was cold, distant, and I felt like I was speaking to a stranger.

Read More
A Letter to Crunchy Christian Moms

Dear Crunchy Christian Mom,

 

I see you.

I see how hard you work to keep your family healthy.

I see how you spend your evenings scouring the web for healthy recipes and engaging activities.

I see how attentive you are to your kids and how you try to always cook healthy meals from scratch.

I see how you give up some luxuries to afford a healthier life.

I see how much you love your family.

 

Do you want to know what else I see?

That you're a great mom--A fantastic mom!

And I would say that even if I didn't know about any of those things you do for your kids.

Because the truth is, you're a great mom regardless of the health of your kids.

Read More
New Creation, New Label

“Who am I, really?” I wish I had asked that of God many years ago.

As a child, I was the weird one. I was the one without a dad. I was the one with off-brand clothes. I was the teacher’s pet. I was the one with acne at ten years old.

As a teenage girl, I was the smart one. I was the one who fit in everywhere and nowhere. I was the one who sought attention. I was the one who rooted for the underdog. I was the one who could do it all but chose to do nothing.

All those descriptions are true, yet none are who I am. I know that now, but it took many years to get rid of the labels—the labels thrown at me by others and the ones I quietly placed on myself.

Read More
The Ache of Growth

There is no growth without pain. From the achy legs of a childhood growth spurt, to the stiffness after a taxing workout, to the heartache of an emotional hardship. Growth almost always involves some level of pain. When it comes to our growth in spiritual maturity, it is no different. 

Working the muscles of spiritual discipline and learning to live in the example of Jesus comes with discomfort. God even promises us that we will need to "take up our cross" and bear the weight of suffering at some point.

Pain is inevitable, but we can experience pain as a result of our detachment from our Heavenly Father or we can experience pain as a process for spiritual growth.

Read More
The Danger of Isolation

I have never heard an acceptance speech at an awards ceremony that started with "I'd like to thank me, myself, and I for all of the hard work that it took to get here. I couldn't have done it without me." I've also never seen an acknowledgment section of a book contain the author's own name. Why? Because great accomplishments require a great effort by a great team.

If that's true for recording artists, film producers, and authors, then the same should be true for us as Christians. No great work for God can be done alone. Not only do we need God, but we need each other. The danger of isolating ourselves from the kingdom of God-- His people--is that we become unqualified for the work for which He created us.

Read More
Same God, Different Call

I can recall the frustration I felt several years ago when I was helping out a single mom and I could not get others around me to join my cause. The woman recently had cancer, had major surgery, had little support from anyone, and had to take care of herself and her son. I felt led to give her some financial assistance for her rent one month, help with cleaning, stocking her fridge and freezer with meals, and helping her move. This wasn’t something I did for everyone; actually, it was the first time I had ever felt God ask me to connect with a complete stranger in this way.

As a result of my passion, I asked the people in my small group to help her out too. Some did, some did not. I couldn’t understand all the varying degrees of interest in the woman and her situation. Why was everyone not as passionately generous as I was?

Read More
You're Not the Hero of Your Story

I'm not the hero of my own story. You're not the hero of yours. How do I know that? Because we fail to live up to heroic standards all the time. We’re selfish and self-absorbed. Our words and deeds are not always for the good of others. Thankfully, that's a good thing.

In Scott Saul's book From Weakness to Strength, he says, "Jesus came for sinners, not heroes. Perhaps the recognition that we are not heroes can be an occasion--maybe the first one in quite some time--to fall into his healing arms." Being the hero means there’s no one to save us from ourselves.

Identifying ourselves as heroes instead of sinners keeps us trapped in our weakness. It isn't until we honestly identify ourselves as sinners that we allow God's healing to free us from our past and His strength to sustain us in the present.

Read More
IdentityTaryn Nergaard