The Power of Praying Specifically

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Last week I wrote about not walking into adoption lightly.

It was a very emotional weekend as it felt like our process was moving backwards instead of forward.

Ask, Seek, Knock

I won’t pretend there aren’t some real emotions involved in the process of adopting. It’s quite the roller coaster and there is definitely some uncertainty involved. It lends us the great opportunity to trust God in new ways; in deeper ways. And it’s interesting to me how we feel like we should be in control of a situation that God ordained in the first place.

But one email struck fear in my heart. Then another email set me into major overwhelmed mode. And I just grew paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do or how to pray. I kind of just froze. And cried. A lot.

Pray specifically

For months I had prayed in a very broad sense as far as our process goes, because I do want God’s timing, not my own. But, I also hadn’t considered the schemes of the enemy, or of man, for that matter. I didn’t stop to pray against these issues.

So, I grabbed a pen and my journal, and I began to pray specific prayers for signatures and correct documentation and people to do right by the law rather then coax people into bribing them with more money to do their job “quicker”.

One of the emails we received stated our home study would need to be updated. It expires after 12 months, and well, it’s coming up close to that already since we first had it done. This is an overwhelming process, including getting physicals and medical forms filled out for all the children and my husband and I. Then we also need to get new police clearance, a new background check, and give copies of new tax statements.

When I called the children’s pediatrician office, I was surprised to find they were booked for the next month. We needed to have our home study updated before that. Was there anything they could do?!

The guy on the phone says that he will comb the schedule and see what he can find. He puts me on hold. I pray. He comes back and says that he is going to try to grab our kids’ doctor before she goes in to see her next patient in order to work something out.

More prayer.

He comes back and says she will see all five kids on the same day. One of her vacation days. She is coming in JUST to see MY kids. Seriously, it was a miracle!!! Even the guy on the phone said it couldn’t have worked out better! He needed to get supervisor approval and nurse practitioner approval and everything.

The next evening, we received some other great news of movement in our case! It was the first news of movement we’d heard in 3 months! I went to bed that night smiling.

God Speaks

Then, Sunday morning church. During our time of worship, we sang “Desert Song“, and never before had that song struck me like it did that morning. The tears just fell. It was absolutely my prayer at that moment, in this season.

Our associate pastor gets up to preach, and he’s talking about prayer. Prayer. The one thing I’ve been wondering about these last few weeks, but especially that weekend when at first everything seemed it was falling apart. He opens his message talking about how Abraham prayed to God, specifically, for Sodom and Gomorrah. Very specifically. In numbers. Considered some bold praying, that was there.

 

“God, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people? What if 40 righteous people are found? What if 30? 20? 10?” Genesis 18:24-32

God wants to stretch our faith as we step out and ask Him for the desires He planted inside of us, even if we cannot see what He sees. This is a place of revealing, and at times He will answer how we pray, and other times He will show us a better way. But how will we know unless we pray? Unless we ask Him, “Lord, what if…”?

God has revealed Himself to me in a way I desperately needed, simply because I took the time to ask Him, specifically. Not only did He answer my prayers, He also spoke to me on how to pray, and that praying specifically was not only allowed, it was wanted. He proves it over and over throughout scripture.

What do you need to ask God for, specifically? He wants you to ask, friend. He’s waiting.

For further reading: James 5:13-20; Matthew 7:7-12; Psalm 34:4; Psalm 37:4; Mark 11:20-26

For another powerful testimony, check out my story of praying for my first child here.

Bible Study for Moms – Part 5

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the Undeniable Responsibility as Mother

Need the Word

God has given mother’s such a unique role. And our role requires that we run to Him on a consistent basis or we run on empty very quickly. Based on my experience alone, I know that when I am not constantly in God’s word and seeking Him, I come up dry very, very quickly.

Children, by nature and no fault of their own, are very needy beings. They require so much of their mother, and if you have multiple children, you can multiply those needs. It is imperative that we equip ourselves regularly in order to care for the needs of our children: physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually.

In order to teach the Word, it’s good for us to be familiar with it.

Can I tell you, it is such a gift to teach my children about the Lord. It is so amazing to watch their faces light up with revelation from the Holy Spirit when something is taught and they understand it. There is nothing like it.

No Sunday school teacher can replace you, Mother. They will never be able to reach your children in a way you can through your influence and your teaching of God’s Word. Do not make the mistake of believing that the Sunday school teacher will do a better job because they have the “know how”.

Even without the fancy felt figures (though they are fun!) and games, your children will learn best from you.

So, make it a point, mom, to fill up your tank so you can fill the tanks of your children and fulfill God’s mission one day at a time. Do not neglect the great responsibility you have to yourself, your children, and your husband by failing to be in the Word. It’s not a matter of “following the rules”, it’s a matter of feeding your soul necessary food.

Don’t get in the word because you have to; get in the Word because you need to.

Read the rest of the Hopscotch Summer here:

HopscotchwithiHNSummer2

Bible Study for Moms – Part 4

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The Bible versus Devotionals

The Bible Stands Alone

I really think it is important to understand there is a difference between Bible reading and reading a devotional. They are definitely not the same thing and often we use those terms interchangeably as if they were.

This is not meant to convince you that devotionals are bad (although some are pretty bad) or don’t have their place. They do. But they should never trump the Bible in terms of authority.

There is nothing a devotional can do that the Bible can’t; but there are plenty of things the Bible can do that a devotional cannot.

You see, devotionals are only a guide. They are not the guide. The bottom line is, the author had a personal connection with God on their own personal matters. What God conveyed to them, personally, was then laid out for other people to read. While some may certainly benefit from some of the information and even be guided in some aspects, it can never give us a full taste of what God has for us, personally. 

Authors who write devotionals are not the final authority on what God’s word conveys. Only the Bible has that authority.

Having said all that, however, devotionals certainly have a place. I have a few of my own favorites and have also written one. They are meant, really, for encouragement and to point us to the authoritative word–the Bible. Because, there is power when we read His word with our own background, with our own struggles, with our own insecurities and needs.

We read more then a verse or two, more then a mere devotion can offer, and we find ourselves saturated in a healing balm of His truth. Rather then someone else speaking to us about how God used a verse to work in their life, God speaks to us directly with His truth, knowing us personally and knowing what we need.

Can God use devotionals? Absolutely. But. But, but but…they can also be a hindrance to His voice if we only rely on devotionals and neglect reading His word; the final authority on Truth.

Devotionals should never be a replacement for God’s word, but instead be read alongside, or not at all.

I admit, I am very, very picky about which devotionals I read. I don’t like a lot of fluff and honestly, when it comes to a devotion, I don’t want it to be all about the author. There is a place for that (testimonies). Devotionals should shift our thinking to God’s thinking and encourage devotion to God.

We can very often take the author’s words as if they are always meant for us, and they aren’t always meant for us. But the Bible, the words of Truth, no matter what our circumstances or what our personality, are always meant for us.

I encourage you, if you read a devotional, that’s fine! But don’t allow it to stand alone. Have a Bible reading plan of some sort as well. Read the scriptures for yourself and see what the Holy Spirit would speak to you, personally. This will also protect you against false teachings because not every devotional is lead of God and Truth.

The devotional I am enjoying currently is (affil link) Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts devotional. The one thing I really love about her devotional is that she does not claim to know all the answers, but often asks many questions throughout  her devotions. It encourages the reader to seek out answers from the Word for themselves. She uses illustrations from her life, but does not suggest that there is a one-size fits all for every person. Instead, she invites you in to her quest, full of her own questions.

What is your favorite devotional and why?

Bible Study for Moms – Part 3

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You can read part 1 & 2 here:

Part 1: Intro

Part 2: Shift Your Perspective

Useful Bible Study Tools

Today I want to share a couple Bible study tools that are helpful and useful for Bible study. While not necessary, they make studying the Bible more in depth, organized and focused, at least for me.

Since beginning the Thirty Days of Bible Study for Busy Mama’s, I have obtained this new tool for Bible study.(Affiliate links are present within this post)

Bible Study Tools

It has really helped my colorful personality to have something fun to mark up my Bible with and make certain things really stand out to me. Before I purchased these, I tried using regular Crayola colored pencils and I really had to press hard to get them to show up. This can actually result in tearing pages in my Bible. So when I received the Prismacolor pencils in the mail, I was happy that the color was quite rich. I didn’t need to press real hard to get it to show up.

Well worth the little extra cost and since these are only used for Bible study purposes, they will last quite a while.

This Bible Study book itself is a tool. It helps me dig into the Word in a more focused manner; in ways I may not have thought of on my own.

Here’s what a typical day from the Bible Study for Busy Mama’s – Colossians 3, looks like:

Busy Mama's Bible Study Bible Study 1

Each day, you will read Colossians 3. Then you will re-read it looking for specific things in the passage. In this case, it’s making a list of all the things that we are to throw off as Christians. All negative commands.

Bible Study 2

This study I began before I had my colored pencils. So you can see I used regular pencil to square off the negative commands.

Bible Study 3

Spending time in God’s word helps me remember His truths on a regular basis. In addition, I feel a heart connection with Him. His presence stays with me, even when I’ve closed my Bible, in a much richer sense. I have a greater sense of peace, simply knowing I’m not alone, because reading His word reminds me of His promises.

Other tools include:

Highlighters

Journal

Commentary

Concordance

Series:

Bible Study for Moms Part 1 {Intro}

Bible Study for Moms Part 2 {Shift Your Perspective}

 

Bible Study for Moms – Part 2

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Busy Mama Bible Study

Shifting Your Perspective

I think there are many wrong mindsets that can bog us down. I’m battling some of them even now. I know the truth, but trying to get myself to believe it by living it is proving to be a challenge.

At the same time, I want to be careful I’m not throwing out the wheat with the chaff. While I know some things are toxic, some really just require a bit of priority shift and discipline.

Disciplines are important, but not at the expense of a heartfelt relationship with Christ.

We need to understand our motives. If our motive is solely duty, we will dread our time in the Word, or never do it.

However, it is important to understand we are called to obedience and staying in the Word is an act of obedience as well as an act of the will. Having a discipline is simply a tool to help us remain in the Word. It is very easy to allow our time with God to slip away day after day if we haven’t set up a specific plan of action to read.

It is so important to understand how disciplines work, though. They won’t all look identical. There is no law written that you absolutely have to do your quiet time with God in the morning. I have definitely found benefits in doing this, but truth be told, not every season will allow for it. And it’s a legalistic notion if one thinks that’s the only time to meet with God.

Some people thrive just as well in the evenings as others do in the mornings. Some can only find a quiet moment during nap time during the afternoon.

Which leads to my next point.

There is no set time to be in the Word or prayer.

Something is always better then nothing and a small study or concentration on a verse can really pack a punch. The reason I am loving this Thirty Days of Bible Study for Busy Mamas is because it’s about a 5 minute per day study and it really packs a punch. You study an entire chapter for a whole month. You really dig into it a little everyday and it has to be the best Bible study in 5 minutes I have ever come across. I can use this study as a guide for future studies of my own.

The goal is to be fed, not spend a certain amount of time reading everyday. Anybody can read for an hour and not take a thing away from their time in the Word. That’s not our goal.

But here’s the thing…

While we don’t want to be legalistic about spending time in the Word — how we do it, when we do it, or where we do it — we cannot neglect our time either and be lazy or complacent about it. We still must do it. Not out of duty, but out of need. Consistently avoiding or neglecting our quiet time will soon prove disastrous.

Think of your house. It doesn’t matter when you clean, just so long as you are cleaning. It doesn’t matter what system you set up or how you clean. But when you stop cleaning, the house will slowly become quite messy and chaotic. It will be noisy and become cluttered. It will be harder to find things, and keep the dirt up when there is stuff all over. You will find it’s harder to walk because there is stuff all over the floor.

So it is with our mind and spirit when we neglect them. Our mind becomes cluttered with worldly thinking and it will be harder to find the Truths we once read. We must read continually to keep our hearts tidy with Truth; to defeat the lies of the enemy and of the world; to have a clear path to walk down that is not littered with garbage, making the path unclear.

Don’t mistake legalism for lifeline.

What lies are you battling regarding your own need to be in God’s word?

*Doorposts gave me a free copy of the above Bible study for review. Links are not affiliate, however. 

Bible Study for Moms {series}

(This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)

Bible Study for Moms series

Find the above Bible study here: Thirty Days of Bible Study for Busy Mamas

It’s an incredibly common struggle for moms – finding time and tools to read and study the Bible. It’s so easy to allow it to slip out of our priorities. I’m speaking of myself here, too. I know how easy it is. So when you read the series this week, know I am totally talking to myself here, too. What better way to know the need then to be in need?

I am not kidding when I say there are many days I try to steal time by sneaking outside to the porch or to my room to get a few minutes of Bible reading in today and I never even get the Bible open. Either someone will find me because they need something (no biggie, that’s why I’m mom), or I’ll sit there and it’s like there’s literally a battle with me opening my Bible. I just sit there, with it in my lap.

Maybe it’s the lies. Maybe it’s the guilt. I just freeze. Sometimes I lack direction–”What do I read?” Sometimes I talk myself out of it because a few minutes just isn’t enough time to devote to God. So, I devote nothing.

Can you relate?

Satan would love nothing more than to keep us buried in these lies and from reading God’s truth. (After all, the truth will set you free).

I think we need to ask ourselves some very serious questions. Who (or what) are we truly living for? Because that truth will press us into the things we truly love. I know when I remain connected to the heart of God through His word and pressing in with prayer, He is not far and there is a peace that’s unexplainable.

But when I allow time to put a gap in our relationship, His voice of Truth is harder to hear because it’s further away. The door has been opened wider for other things to leak in and eventually pour in, drowning out His voice so I can no longer hear His direction or encouragement. I need to make the steps to go to Him and be fed.

Stay tuned with me this week as I share some things about getting into God’s word. Before we dig in, the first thing you need to do is release any guilt you may be having for not doing what you *think you should do* in this regard. Just let it go. It’s useless and will only weigh you down from moving forward.

We have freedom in Christ to dig into God’s word when it works best for us. So let go of that guilt, but do be prepared for a fresh perspective and fresh start.

For more Hopscotch Summer, visit us at the iHomeschool Network. And be sure to visit again tomorrow as I continue this series.

Part 2 – Shift Your Perspective

Part 3 – Bible Study Tools

Part 4 – Devotionals Versus the Bible

Part 5 – The Undeniable Responsibility of a Mother

HopscotchwithiHNSummer2

Becoming a Wise Woman – Part 2

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beautiful girl laughs and dances outdoors in a meadow durning sunset

A wise woman recognizes her need for Jesus.

This is first and foremost vitally important, because I simply can do nothing on my own. I cannot save myself through good behavior or good deeds. In fact, I can’t even do the “good deeds” without Christ. I have been down that road more times then I care to count. You know, trying to be all that I can be, through me. Not gonna happen. Ever.

Before I set off to walk in the ways of a wise woman, I need to know where my source of strength lies and what my purpose is. Is my purpose to glorify God or glorify myself?

What I find myself running into when I strive, is that I often forget at some point I will fail. I will fail to live up to my own standards, or even God’s standards, as laid out in Scripture.  I don’t want to live as a wise woman to have some kind of recognition or feel better about myself. I want to live as a wise woman because God wants the best for me and because there is a wonderful sense of fulfillment when I find myself in God’s will.

My failures point me to Jesus and they help me remember my need for Him. If my failures do nothing else good, I pray they keep me running to Jesus. But I want more than simply a “fail and run” relationship with Christ.

I want to recognize that my striving shouldn’t begin with works, but with Christ. I need to strive for Him first; the works will take care of themselves. They will happen a bit more naturally rather than feeling like I’m fighting an uphill battle. It seems so simple doesn’t it? Yet, I forget that my life is not built upon what I can do, but what Christ has already done.

This should empower me to act. A life filled with works, yet empty of Christ, is empty. But a life filled with Christ naturally overflows in His good work because love takes the lead, not self.

A wise woman recognizes that only Christ can transform her heart. It is not something she can do through willpower or habit. He can choose to change a heart immediately or through long-suffering. I simply need to seek Him, fully and wholly.

 If I live my life chasing after doing everything right and fail to cultivate a relationship with Christ, I’ve wasted it.  

Pruning for New Growth

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Pruning

 

There are seasons in our lives when God is asking us to let go of some things so what’s left has room to grow. Sometimes it can seem like we can manage everything we have going on, but that’s just it. Managing them won’t give them the best chance at blossoming into something beautiful and effective.

Sometimes He has something even better for us but cannot release it until we let go of some of the other endeavors, even if they were at one point ordained by God. At times, He only ordains certain callings for a season before moving us into new growth. It’s so important we are attuned to His voice and His leading.

I know when He’s calling me out of something for something better, I will not have peace until I let go whatever it is I’m holding onto. When we cram in too much, each piece can only grow so far. Doing too much stunts the growth of everything. There is only so much space.

So, allowing God to cut some things out so He can further grow what’s left is really a liberating thing! If He isn’t connected to what we’re doing, it isn’t going to be fruitful anyways, and it’s only going to choke what He does want to grow.

Think about the things in your life that would offer you much peace if you could let them go. That might be a place to start praying and asking God what He wants and to confirm that for you.

I have felt lead to begin letting some of my VA (virtual assistant) work go. I struggled with it for a little while because I wasn’t sure if it was just me or if it was really God. But, as I started to release some of it, peace overcame me and I knew I was doing the right thing. It’s simply a season. God has new growth for me and new growth for my family as we welcome in two precious new members in the coming months.

It’s important that I make way for them to have room to blossom by offering them my time as they adjust into a family in an entirely new culture.

But maybe your season looks different. Perhaps you homeschool and you need to spend more time in a certain area of homeschooling–it could be planning, it could be teaching a certain subject, it could be teaching a specific child more closely.

Maybe it’s in your marriage. Perhaps you need more time to be more intentional about connecting with your husband.

Evaluate your own life and season and see if God is speaking to you about letting something go or parring something down. What might it be?

 

Calling All Men…

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…ladies, grab your husbands. I have a special message for them from Family Life…

Did you know there are five stages in a man’s journey? (I wonder how many stages there are in a womans!) Author and founder of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, speaks to each of these stages in his book, Stepping Up, A Call to Courageous Manhood. In it, he unpacks what it means to be a man and discusses the unique challenges, opportunities and responsibilities of each stage—boyhood, adolescence, manhood, mentor and patriarch. In a time, when definitions of masculinity are ridiculed by some and blurred by others, many of our Christian brothers don’t understand what it means to be a Godly man.

 

“Men today are realizing that another crisis is upon us. There are no bullets or bombs, but we are on a battlefield all the same. It’s a fight for our families and our future. And for this fight we need men who are willing to bravely step up and be the tough, courageous men God designed them to be,” says Rainey.

 

Dennis Rainey and FamilyLife are right now challenging our husbands, sons and fathers to answer the call to godly, courageous manhood and to host or join in on Stepping Up Super Saturday, a one-day, nationwide event held in churches and homes on Saturday, February 2.

Through engaging stories, expert teaching and personal insights, Rainey, along with Matt Chandler, Bill Bennett, Tony Dungy, Robert Lewis, Voddie Baucham, Mark Driscoll, and 15 others will layout the blueprint of biblical manhood and challenge every man to step up in their own lives, marriages, churches, and communities.

To join in on Stepping Up Super Saturday, men can order the event kit, gather together and pop in the DVD. From there, these nationally renowned speakers tackle some of the biggest issues facing men today. Please encourage your husbands, as well as teen and young adult sons, to join in on this incredible chance to be inspired and to step up to godly, courageous manhood.

 

This post is sponsored by

I support and endorse FamilyLife. They are a terrific organization of resources for Christian families.  

My One Word for 2013

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Intentional.

I used to be pretty good about being intentional–about my days, about my walk with Christ, about teaching my children. Unfortunately, it has been lacking lately and it’s time to regain that focus.

So much is wasted when we live by default–when we live with whatever is thrown at us in the daily grind. Instead, I want to be prepared for the battle. I want to be equipped to handle my responsibilities. I want to be armed with the right tools to raise my children and teach them about what they need to know, academics and otherwise.

Living a life of intention requires a bit of planning ahead–knowing what I want and what it’s going to take to get me there. I need to be sure my “wants” line up with God’s heart otherwise my course will be all off.

Here are some major areas that being intentional will really make a huge difference:

Adoption

We are hoping, praying, and expecting that we will be bringing home two beautiful girls from Africa near the end of 2013. This journey is not about us and “rescuing” orphans from poverty. Oh no, it goes much deeper than that. While God calls us to care for the orphans, adoption is not the only way to do that. But God has a plan for these two precious girls and we are simply His vessels to help bring that to fruition.

But, it requires some serious sacrifice on our part and having a solid, structured schedule in place is one of them. It is vital for the security of the girls to know what to expect–not to mention it’s good for our children who are home now! But this will be a little tighter than what we’re used to. So, the year 2013 will find me being more intentional about keeping to our schedule, allowing some flexibility, and maintaining a good attitude in the midst. Maybe that’s a high bar, but if I know where to lean when I fail, it won’t frustrate me as much when I fail to reach it. Hey, I’m just keepin’ it real. I can’t abolish all frustrations, but I can certainly minimize them!

Homeschool

 I have not been as structured as I’d like to be, though my children are definitely still learning. However, our read aloud time has slipped away and I miss it!

I want to be a bit more intentional about what we’re learning, yet remain flexible enough to make it fun and meaningful for them. I like curricula to help give me a framework, but I cannot follow it to a “T”. It boxes me and my children in and I don’t like that. So though I use it, I don’t allow myself to be bound by it.

When our girls come home from Africa, they will join in with our lessons, but will require more attention as they learn to speak more English (they know some), learn to read English and understand math concepts.

Part of my intentional goal is to help my older children be more independent in their studies. They are absolutely capable and I can make it fun and teach them responsibility at the same time.

Home Keeping

Again, this has slacked a bit. I want to help prevent the house from becoming the epitome of a tornado running through it. This will require that I make certain to check my kids chores on a daily basis. Not only so the house helps keep order but also to teach them responsibility as well.

Prevention is best! Cleaning as you go is awesome! I just need to be intentional and push myself to finish each task.

Blogging/Writing

These past few months have found me slacking majorly in being intentional on my blog and in my writing (other than my eBook). I have so many things overflowing in my heart that I want to share in this space!! I do not want them to fade out before I have a chance to write them out!

I noticed last year brought a lot of interest in a marriage series I did. This year I will be adding some posts and series on marriage. Prior to blogging, I used to teach biblical marriage concepts in other online forums. The response of “The Husband Project” was so great, that I cannot ignore the obvious need for encouragement in marriage.

I also want to include some devotions–maybe weekly. It will help hold me accountable to stay in the Word knowing I need to share something the Lord is teaching me.

Finally, I want to read more–good writers are avid readers. I hope to share my book list for 2013 with you tomorrow! Some of them may over lap from last year since I didn’t get around to reading all of last year’s listed books!

This space will be a place to share how I live out my one word for 2013. It looks to be a busy year with big changes because of our adoption and I intend to make it count!!!

What’s your one word? I would LOVE to know!!