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A call for joyful moms (and Christians)…

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Motherhood can seem like a rollercoaster. One minute you find yourself at the top of the hill enjoying the fruits of your hard work and the next you are careening down the hill of spilled milk and sibling rivalry. Each day can hold sweet memories and head-banging frustrations.

I’ve noticed a pattern of negativity among modern moms. We vent about those annoyances and even our humorous stories are tainted with sarcasm. Mothering is hard. Life is hard. Somehow we feel better by complaining about it.

I think that’s where we have gone wrong. In an attempt to be authentic and real, we have lost our joy. We have adopted an attitude of martyrdom about the requirements of this God-given job.

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Several years ago, I watched a skit of Bob Newhart as a psychologist. A patient comes into his office for counsel, and after some hilarious introductory comments, she begins to describe her paralyzing fear of being buried alive in a box. He listens to her struggles for only a few minutes before he gives her his advice summed up in two words. “Stop it!” Throughout the rest of the skit, he answers every argument with that same phrase! “Just stop it!” No matter the issue, she needed to just quit it!

It would be the same situation, if I wrote a blog post like this simply challenging you to stop focusing on the negatives of motherhood or life in general. Within ourselves, we have to power to just “stop it”. The sin and failures of our heart cannot be changed with more law. It is only the power of the gospel that transforms!

Let’s look at John 16:33….

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Jesus himself acknowledges that the Fall brought brokenness and trouble into every corner of our world. He doesn’t encourage us to muster up some surfacey happiness that will never last. Instead He points eyes to His work. He has overcome. My joy in motherhood and in life is the joy of the Lord not my circumstances.

Because He is sovereign over even the most minute details of my day, I can be joyful.

Because He has given me grace that covers my moment by moment failures, I can can be joyful.

Because He loved me before I even acknowledged Him, I can be joyful.

JoyofLord

I’m not hoping that Christian moms of the 21st century become happier or bubblier about the circumstances they find themselves in each day. I’m praying that moms become so enamored with the love of Jesus that the joy of the Lord oozes from their every word and deed.

The joy of the Lord is my strength…..Nehemiah 8:10

Constant

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Recently, I asked some of my Facebook friends this question.

The 1st word that pops into my head when I think of motherhood is:_______________________.

Some of the answers I received didn’t surprise me at all….

Chaos

Adventure

Crazy

Love

There was one answer that made me stop to ponder.

Constant

The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines this short word as “happening all the time or very often over a period of time”.

Any woman who has been mothering for any length of time (even 24 hours) can identify with this word.

A new baby needs frequent and regular feedings. A toddler needs continual supervision for his safety. A school-aged child needs answers to life’s pressing questions at any given moment. A teen needs stable and firm guidance as she heads into adulthood.

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A mom is always “on” and always available. Sometimes this even occurs when the mom is physically unavailable.

A couple of weeks ago, I had knee surgery. While it was a fairly simple procedure, it put me in bed for several days. Even when I finally ventured around the house on my crutches, I was often physically unable to help my kids in the normal ways. I was afraid to carry my toddler down the stairs while my knee was so weak. I couldn’t kneel by the bathtub to rinse the soap out of my son’s hair. I was dependent on meals prepared by others each evening.

This bodily break did not cause a hiatus in the constancy of motherhood, though. I still worried about the sibling squabbles I heard and awoke to the cries of my little one in the middle of the night. Even from the couch, I was mothering mentally.

If you are a mother, you are not disagreeing with me at this point. I’m sure you are nodding your head in agreement.

 

It was the alternate definition of this word that struck me, however.

“staying the same : not changing”

I wish I could say that I stay the same each day. I wish I could claim that my kids know exactly which version of Mommy they’ll greet each morning. I wish I was unchanging in the face of daily stress and lack of sleep.

Motherhood is constant, but I am not constant in my mothering.

There is only one Person who truly and faithfully embodies this word, constant.

I, the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

Malachi 3:6

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

God is not human,that he should lie,
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
    Does he promise and not fulfill?

Numbers 23:19

My God isn’t affected by emotion or exhaustion. He never wavers and never changes. It is His very immutable nature that brought about our desperately needed redemption. He didn’t change His standard of required perfection and He didn’t go back on His word to provide a Lamb to meet those demands.

JesusChristthesame

This is such good news when I lose my temper over something insignificant once again or when my living room resembles a disaster zone. In my weakest, most inconsistent moments, I’m still qualified to receive the inheritance of the saints not through my own stability, but Christ’s!

Because of the constant demands of motherhood, I desperately need a constant God. My only hope for consistency is found in Him!

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

P.S. Thank you to those who entered in our Steadfast Love Giveaway! I announced the winner HERE.

Reset button

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I could feel the tension building.

I had stayed calm when cereal was purposely dumped on the floor. I had smiled and given a gentle reminder when the child leaning back in his chair finally crashed to the ground. I even had even kept my cool when I heard complaints about the special Valentine’s candy I was offering.

I couldn’t do it anymore. These kids were about to bear the brunt of a full mommy blow-up and it was going to be nasty!

That’s when the idea struck me….have a restart. We were going to start this day all over again! So I set a timer for five minutes and we all went to our rooms for a breather. We reset our hearts and our minds and when we reconvened, there was much less danger for a parental explosion.

Friends, that kind of do-over is no less common in our spiritual walk. We live in the already/not yet of redemptive time. Hebrews 2:8 reminds us that Christ has already conquered death and sin, yet at this point we don’t see our world in complete submission to Him. That’s still coming. In the meantime, we will sin. We will experience pain.  We will acutely feel our brokenness. That’s why it’s necessary for us to regularly hit the reset button of the gospel.

When I feel tempted with sin, it’s more than a just good idea to stop and read scriptures like:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”     I Corinthians 5:21

Or when my heart is overwhelmed with the trials and repetitive tasks of life:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  Jeremiah 31:3

Desktop

A while back, I designed this picture for my laptop screensaver. One day my oldest read it and said, why does it just say morning? His mercies are new in the evening too!

He didn’t realize how many times, I would open my computer at the end of a chaotic and disappointing day only to be reminded of God’s never failing, never ending mercy in the evening too! Because of Christ’s work, His favor always rests on me. Every morning, every evening, and the many hours in between are wrapped in His love and His faithfulness (not mine).

I’m so thankful for the restart button of the gospel. The chance to run back to the finished and perfect work Jesus completed for me. His grace weaves my failures, blow-ups, and do-overs into a beautiful tapestry for His glory.

Run to Him. Ask Him to remind your soul of His steadfast love and new mercies! Accept the renewal He so generously offers!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

Who do you think you are? {themes from Galatians 1}

Exciting news! I know your life is busy so you can read OR listen to today’s post! Just click play and listen to the audio blog {subscribers click READ MORE at the bottom of your email}! Let me know what you think in the comments or email me!

Who Do You Think You Are? Audio

 

She crossed her chubby arms and tapped her tiny foot impatiently.

“Who do you think you are?”
She pointed to the handmade sign. “Can’t you see it says ‘No boys allowed’? Only girls can come into this clubhouse! Now, go away!”
It doesn’t take long for us as humans to start questioning and challenging our identity and authority as it relates to others. Some abuse that authority and others feel like they can never gain any. We all struggle to find our true identity.
As we begin looking at some of the major themes in the book of Galatians, these two root issues are so important. Let’s take a look at them separately.

GalatiansPt1

AUTHORITY IN CHRIST (Galatians 1:4)

Paul is writing the book of Galatians to a church who has lost its direction and focus as believers in Christ. He sees an urgent and dangerous problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Before he explains the issue and suggests solutions he establishes his authority not in himself, but in Jesus Christ. We find references to Christ’s resurrection even in the first verse of this book. In fact, throughout this letter, Paul rarely strays far from the anchor of the gospel. His advice and input carries weight to the hearers not because of Paul’s greatness, but  because of Christ’s.

 

There are times when we are also called to share truth with others. As moms, one of our primary responsibilities is to impart wisdom and instruction to the little ones in our home. It’s so easy to revert to the “Because I said so” mentality when in fact our authority really rests in the “Because He says so” of Scripture.
When we have an intimidating conversation with a coworker or friend, it brings much relief to realize that our words don’t hold weight because of our eloquence, but because of the power of God’s words and working in their life.
We share gospel truths not because we are qualified, but because He is!

IDENTITY IN CHRIST {Galatians 1:6-10}
So what exactly is the main issue with this body of believers? We soon learn that the Galatian church had forgotten their new identity in Christ and were actively turning to things other than Him for their security and rescue. They were attempting to fill a gospel-shaped hole in their spirits with things other than the work of Jesus.
This wasn’t a new idea to Paul. Later on in this first chapter he reminds them that he was growing steadily in his popularity among the Jews. His persecution of Christians and advancement of Judaism was applauded. When he was literally stopped in his tracks on the road to Damascus, he was given not only a new name, but a new identity and mission. He bluntly tells his readers that if he was seeking validation from his peers he wouldn’t be preaching Christ (v.10).


It’s easy to shake our heads at the Galatians and wonder how they could so easily turn to replacements for the good news they already received through Christ. Honestly examining our own hearts reveals that we have some identity issues too.
Here are a few of my identities:

–Good wife: This identity includes consistent dishwashing, crisp ironing, and squeaky clean floors. It requires immediate submission to all decisions and calm responses to heated discussions. If perfection is not attained in all aspects, this identity is deemed a failure.

–Wonderful mom: This identity includes gourmet PB&J making skills, organization of all superhero costumes, and creative bedtime storytelling. Negotiation is a requirement for this position. If perfection is not attained in all aspects, this identity is deemed a failure. 

–Church leader: This identity includes a cheerful disposition at all times, memory of church members names and current spiritual/physical needs, and an ability to explain any passage of Scripture a moment’s notice. If perfection is not attained in all aspects, this identity is deemed a failure. 

Obviously these identities are completely unattainable, but they bring pride and despair on a regular basis depending on my current level of success in each area. Can you relate?

Maybe you find your identity in your number of friends, advice giving opportunities, or creative ability. The possibilities are endless.
That’s why we can’t skim over the first part of Galatians. Our identity IS important and if we are in Christ our identity has been perfectly sealed. We are His!

Practically, this means that I can crash and burn in any area of my existence, but my validation doesn’t come from those faulty identities.

This makes the question of our authority and identity a simple one to answer. Both are found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Straying from this answer leads us down a dangerous path and resting in it brings us confidence and peace in the face of the world’s many “gospels”.

As you head into the chaos that is life, ask yourself not “Who am I?” but “Whose am I?”. Those two letters make all the difference.

Join me next week for Part 2 of our study in Galatians. I’d love to hear what you’re learning as you read this truth packed book. Share in the comments or reply to your subscription email.

Can Santa point us to Jesus?

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! It’s that time of year where we’re surrounded by reindeer, magic snowmen, and elves! As families who want to emphasize the beauty of the advent, it can be hard to wade through the surface traditions that Christmastime brings.

Instead of fighting against the mentions of Santa and his midnight delivery of toys to children around the globe, it might be helpful to find references to the gospel even in the familiar traditions of this season. It’s possible that even St. Nick can help us point our kids (and ourselves) to Christ!

Can Santa point us to Jesus-

 

You better watch out! You better think twice! He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice……

The truth is that we are ALL naughty! The fall in the Garden of Eden long ago sealed our fate as depraved, “bad” human beings and our position on the naughty list. Giving money to the Salvation Army bell ringers or showing up for a Christmas Eve service does nothing to move our names to the preferred nice list. In fact, even the most consistently “good” person can never measure up to God’s holy standard. (Romans 3:10). We don’t have to be left on that cursed naughty list though. Jesus Christ covered up his divine nature with our sinful flesh and lived perfectly for us. His record is now ours when we accept His work on our behalf meaning that when the Father sees us, we are no longer “naughty” but perfectly “nice”.

Oh, we are Santa’s elves. We work hard all day….

In order to make enough toys for every boy and girl in the world, those elves have a ton of work to do! I’m sure magic helps a bit, but a lot of effort goes into the process! Jesus completed a task far greater than any Christmas toy as He hung on the cross for us. John 19:30 tells us that he breathed, “It is finished” as he bore the wrath of a holy God in His body. He would be separated from His Father because of our sin, not His. Any work we do would never come close to the effectiveness of His work on our behalf and is only done out of our gratefulness to Him. The work is done!

5 golden rings, 4 calling birds, 3 french hens, 2 turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree……

Except for the rings, those gift ideas probably don’t appear on too many Christmas wish lists these days, but the desire for more “stuff” hasn’t disappeared. We spend hour shopping for the perfect present for each person in our family and look forward to early Christmas morning when we enjoy the surprised look on their faces! Unfortunately, even the most expensive of gifts won’t last forever. Toys will break (even as early as Christmas afternoon), cars will be dented, and jewelry will be misplaced. All is not lost, however! The gift of grace earned through Christ will never end. Through it, we receive abundant life which begins when receive it and comes to completeness in eternity! The gift of salvation will last forever!

Enjoy this holiday season! Sing silly carols and make gingerbread houses with your family! Have fun choosing gifts for one another and finding the best place for mistletoe. But, let the joy of the holidays be fueled by the Prince of Peace whose coming provided eternal riches for your soul! Even the Grinch can’t take that away!


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The Fruit of Gratefulness….

“What do you say?” I ask my son as he takes the cookie from the waitress.

“Thank you!” he says with his silly four year old grin.

I pat him on the shoulder with an approving look and secretly feel proud of myself that I’m raising such polite children. Even my one-year-old toddler says something slightly resembling those two words although nobody outside our immediate family would be able to decipher it.

I really swell with pride when our oldest, clearly and loudly responds, “Thank you” on his own accord. I must really be doing this mothering thing right! After all, every parent includes gratefulness in the list of character qualities they want their children to develop by 18 years old.

fruit of gratefulness 2

As we head into another busy holiday season, though, I wonder if we’re missing the mark with this thing called gratefulness. How can we cultivate this attitude in even our smallest children?

To read the rest of this post, visit Emily Jensen, my writing home for today….

I’m Fine….

I’m Fine.


If you were a fly on the wall of my home, I’m sure you would hear me repeat these two words often.

They’re used in the typical “I’m really NOT fine – I’m still pretty upset” way after a disagreement.

They can also be translated: “I’m actually completely overwhelmed and I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done before I run out of hours in the day!!!”

In fact, I can rarely think of a time when the words, “I’m fine” actually mean “I’m fine”.

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It’s most dangerous when I use this phrase inaudibly. I say to myself (and ultimately to God), “I’m fine!”

I can totally handle this mothering thing.

I may not be the best wife, but I’m doing pretty good compared to the other marriages I see.

This spiritual walk thing? I’ve got this!

What I don’t realize is that by deceiving myself about my “fine-ness,” I’m actually limiting a display of God’s power in my life.

At the end of my last pregnancy, a friend of mine asked if she could bring me a meal.  I was pretty surprised. Our church normally schedules meals for after babies arrive, and it seems “appropriate” to help a mom after she’s just gone through the exhaustion of labor and delivery.

I never expected someone to offer a meal when I was still relatively “mobile”!

My first thought was, “I’m fine.” Sure we’d eaten leftovers, frozen pizza, and PB&J for three out of the last four meals because I had been so tired by 4pm, but I was okay. She didn’t need to go to the trouble of bringing us a meal. I wasn’t completely desperate yet. I could handle it!

I made wiser choice, though, and told her “yes”. And let me tell you, friends, it was amazing!

I didn’t have to think about what my three hungry guys were going to eat.

I didn’t have to spend an hour on my (swollen) feet in front of a hot stove.

We were able to sit down and enjoy some quality family time. Her hard work was a blessing to my family that night (and for a couple meals to follow!). I had to admit my weakness to receive her amazing gift! 

What convicts me, is that I behave the same way so many times towards God. Sure, I’ll admit defeat when it comes to my eternal destiny. I KNOW I can’t ever come close to the perfection God requires for eternal life. I need Christ’s sacrifice for my justification.

The problem comes when I start believing Satan’s lies that I’m fine for the rest of this Christian walk. Sure, I may not be perfect, but I’m not completely desperate. I’m a fairly “good” person and I’m not a complete embarrassment morally to God’s testimony. I’m fine.

In believing that lie, I’m robbing God of the opportunity to be glorified in my weakness! I’m claiming a shallow glory for myself. In my pride, I’m focusing on my limited strength instead of His complete lack of weakness.

The glorious truth of the gospel allows me to transparently admit my weaknesses and sin in order to point to His completed work for not only my justification, but sanctification and eventual glorification one day!

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Because of His grace,

Because of His grace, I can boldly say, “I’m NOT fine!” and that, my friends, is the beauty of the gospel!

Naptime Doctrine…..

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the word doctrine often sounds like an extremely boring term. It conjures up images of an old professor in a tweed jacket using big words like propitiation and protoevangelium. It gives the idea of knowledge for knowledge sake. Dry terminology to fill books and commentaries that only get read during a pastor’s sermon preparation.

Let’s take a step back, though, and look at the definition of doctrine:

doctrine: (n) something that is taught; teachings collectively:

Christian doctrine, therefore, would simply be teaching the truths of Scripture. For instance Paul says in I Corinthians 15:3, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,”

Doctrinal teaching is essential to our Christian faith. In fact in 2 Timothy, we are instructed to place a high regard on sound teaching.

“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching,with faith and love in Christ Jesus.

Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14

 

In other words, every believer is a theologian! 

You may be thinking at this point, “That sound great, but I can barely teach my 5 year old how to tie his shoes. How in the world can I teach him doctrine?”
The beauty of our Christian faith is that it goes far beyond catechisms and memorized facts. Those can be very helpful, but the doctrine we are passing on to our kids is real-life gospel.
It’s using our knowledge of the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to affect change in our own hearts first which then spills over to our parenting and marriage relationships.
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Here’s a small example….
My middle son is currently struggling with disobedience and the worst time is always naptime. The other day after disciplining him several times, I sat on the edge of his bed and talked with him about Jesus.

 

When Jesus was a little boy, can you believe he ALWAYS obeyed his mommy and daddy? When he was 4 like you he was perfect!! Do you know why? Well, Jesus is God and He became a little boy like you so that He could do what you and I can’t do – live perfectly. He lived his whole life without sinning once and then took the punishment for what we would do as sinners! He loves you so much that He wanted to do that for you! Aren’t you thankful for a Rescuer like Jesus?

 

That, my friends, on a four year old level is the doctrine of incarnation – Jesus becoming man.
I didn’t need to use that term to teach my son an important tenet of the gospel message.  You see, doctrine isn’t dry and boring at all.
Doctrine is the seed that grows into beautiful spiritual fruit in the life of the Christian (even the 4 year old ones).

 

 

*Looking for more resources for kids and the gospel? Check out the book, Give them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

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*This post is linked to Mommy Moments, Titus 2sDay, and Grace & Truth

Why my kids don’t need a perfect mom….

I can remember holding my oldest son for the 1st time. After months of waiting, I was finally cuddling this precious baby in my arms. It was with anticipation that I studied his little features. What personality would he have? How tall would he be? Would he love me as much as I already love him?

I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, but I had some pretty high expectations for my own new job as mommy.

I knew I couldn’t be perfect (none of us are), but I wanted to be as close to June Cleaver as possible.

I can remember sitting on the floor in his little nursery 3 days after he was born crying and asking “What do I do with him now?” Definitely not the words of a confident mom.

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Over the following 7 years those high standards have failed me time and time again. I’ve lost my temper, made burnt meals, and forgotten promises. The clear slate of motherhood has been marred with many many shortcomings.

Maybe you can relate?

There is hope for us imperfect moms, though, because I believe that even more than a perfect mom, our kids desperately need a mom who understands forgiveness and grace.

When I lose my cool during our math class once again or I put them to bed early because I don’t have enough patience, they have an opportunity to see a mommy who desperately needs Jesus as much as they do! When I apologize for not always being the wife their daddy needs, they see a woman who realizes her need for a daily Rescuer. When I laugh at the meal that flopped, they see someone whose identity isn’t found in gourmet meals, but as a dearly beloved child of God through Christ.

You see, our kids don’t need more perfection instead they need to see the regular process of repentance, forgiveness, and grace that should define our lives as believers.

I hope we as moms can learn to let our children see that the blank slate of motherhood is actually becomes more beautiful when it’s imperfections have been wiped clean by the eraser of the gospel!

_________________________________________
P.S. Want gospel focused teaching and entertainment for your kids? My boys can’t wait for the latest from Buck Denver! Pre-order your copy by clicking below!*



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Why Dishes & Doctrine….

If you’re anything like me, your days consist of the mundane duties of a housewife – cooking, kissing boo-boo’s, cleaning toilets, breaking up sibling fights, and dishes…..lots of dishes. 
Doctrine and theology seems better left to the pastors and seminary professors. After all, as busy moms we need “in the trenches” help, encouragement, and advice. The study of eschatology seems too ethereal for our crazy lives.

 

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A few weeks ago, a man in our church family invited us to fly with him in his 1979 Cessna. As we climbed to 3500 feet above the earth, I was in awe. The noise and traffic of life below ceased. All we could hear was the rumble of the plane (and a couple cute co-pilot voices). What struck me as we flew over the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and gazed out over the horizon was the change in our perspective. The places I go to every day were still there. The geography hadn’t changed a bit, but from above I saw our county in a whole new light. Where I would usually see roads and trees, I saw rolling mountains. Where I would usually cross a little bridge, I could now see an endless river. It was breathtaking.
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Theology (the study of the nature of God and his relation to the world) is one of the most practical things we can do as busy moms because just like our plane flight, it causes us to look at life in a different way. Knowing my God has forgiven me of a debt that I could never repay on my own gives me the perspective to forgive my spouse once again. Knowing that the Bible is a story of God’s pursuit and redemption of His people helps me when I read a Bible story to my kids before bed. Knowing that Christ will be returning for His Church one day gives me hope that the nastiness and pain of this world will one day be gone.
There are thousands of things about theology that I will never know or understand, but the older I get the more I am realizing that God wants me to study Him because the more I know Him the more I will love Him. Theology can’t just be for the men. Our children desperately need us to be grounded in Scripture and devoted to knowing our Father. 
I hope that this blog will be a journey of growing and maturing in doctrine and the tougher things of our faith. My hope and prayer is that we’ll find that sweet spot where motherhood and theology collide!

 

Join me on that journey?

 

 

This post is linked to Reflect, the Titus 2sDay Link-up, and the Titus 2 Tuesday Link-up.