Blog

A Christmas interview with Alexandra Kuykendall

Let’s face it, our actual Christmas doesn’t always mimic a Hallmark movie. Expectations, finances, hope, joy, sorrow, and where Jesus meets us in it all. Alexandra Kuykendall shared some practical and soulful insights during a video interview centered on her book, “Loving my Actual Christmas”.

I hope this Christmas interview blesses you as it did me as we prepare our hearts for the season…knowing that no matter our circumstances, Jesus is with us and is our source of all we need at Christmas and all year long.

 

*Visit Alex online for more Christmas insights

 

Happiness — see joy

Recent quotes from a well known speaker have raised red flags on my truthometer — particularly one that read “If you’re not happy, that’s on you.” It was like a carrot baiting readers to start striving for happiness. Truth is, happiness is a cheap, man-made, temporary version of what we really want. I looked up happiness in the index of my Bible and there was NOT A SINGLE ENTRY, instead it read, “happiness — see joy.”

I laughed. My truthometer was right.

Sirens were going off in my spirit for a reason. I’ve lived through some really unhappy seasons that led to growth and strength. They led me to a stronger faith in Jesus.

Social media is a plague that is spreading the idol of happiness. Truth is, we can spend our whole lives chasing, changing, and reaching for happiness and it will flit in and out leaving us frustrated and unfulfilled.

Believing that happiness is all on us, urges happiness forward into first priority in our lives and grants ourselves reign over it. Both of which are false. Not once did Jesus seek His own happiness. His joy was in doing the work His Father sent Him to do. And most times that was messy and hard. And we are His followers.

Not once did Jesus seek His own happiness. His joy was in doing the work His Father sent Him to do. And most times that was messy and hard. And we are His followers.

“If you’re not happy, it’s on you” may be a clever and catchy post, but living by that motto we lose sight of other things that are more important than our instant gratification of happiness.

The idol of happiness says, leave the marriage find another, you’ll be happier with that other one. Quit the job, there’s not enough money, you’ll be happier if you have more money. Motherhood is too exhausting, have a glass of wine, you’ll be happier if you go out more. Quit the friendship because it’s too hard, you’ll be happier without her. Move, keep moving, because a bigger house will make you happy. Until it doesn’t anymore.

Being happy is a blessing until it becomes our goal. There’s always something better, and then something better than that. Happier is out there somewhere. And it makes us feel less than because we can’t grasp it every moment of every day.

But joy, JOY is found by anyone, anywhere, anytime in Christ. It is God’s desire for His people for us to be filled to the brim with joy because that comes from God, not from man, and therefore doesn’t depend on our circumstances, our choices, or our striving. It’s a gift we experience as we do life with Jesus.

JOY is found by anyone, anywhere, anytime in Christ. It’s a gift we experience as we do life with Jesus.

As I looked joy up in my Bible’s index, here’s what I found…

Joy comes from the Spirit of God, it is not “on us.”

We find joy in worshiping God, in recognizing God is God and we are not.

There’s joy that we are saved, that we can give all our junk to Christ and be forgiven.

Joy in suffering because we are not alone in it because our God is with us.

Joy in servanthood! Serving people gives us joy!  

Joy is found always, in all circumstances. When we live with Christ.

Let’s not limit ourselves to finding our own happiness.  Let’s take the overflowing gift of JOY God’s Spirit offers instead. And let’s not be afraid of hard seasons. We need Jesus to flood our days with His joy even when it’s hard, because sometimes the hard leads to something good.

So we have a choice to make as followers of Jesus these days. We can listen to the loudest megaphone telling us what we want to hear, like that we can make our own happiness, or we can seek truth by reading our Bibles for ourselves. One leads to folly, the other safeguards our life.

 

 

*If you are in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship please seek help. That is not a matter of a lack of happiness, that is abuse and abuse is NEVER condoned by God.

Measuring Your Impact

“What do you do?” I heard that question twenty times at an awards banquet for my journalist husband. They were experts at their craft and I was a full-time mom, beginning blogger, part-time teacher. Nothing felt impressive about my life in this circle. Measuring my impact against theirs made me insecure, but the true measurement of our impact is not found on a plaque.

Read for yourself what Scripture says about  how early followers of Jesus measured their impact…

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3, ESV).

When our faith is in Jesus, we don’t need the approval of people. We no longer need likes on Facebook or medals for a job well done. When we start living for Jesus, our impact is written on the hearts of people we love, serve, and do life.

When we start living for Jesus, our impact is written on the hearts of people we love, serve, and do life.  

We don’t love well because we want to gain anything from it. We don’t mother well because we need an awards banquet. Or work with integrity and grit for a plaque. We don’t listen to friends’ problems over coffee or bring people meals for accolades. We love, serve, forgive, encourage, and empower anyone God puts in our path because He gave us both the work to do and the faith in which to complete it.

The people around us are our plaques as they walk around with the love we have stamped on their hearts. They are the real work God cares about.

So I wonder if, like me, sometimes you aren’t sure if your work matters. Maybe you sit in a cubicle, maybe you are a network marketer, a stay-at-home mom, or you wear suits to the office everyday. Wherever you are, your real job is to love and serve the people around you well.

Wherever you are, your real job is to love and serve the people around you well.

That job is harder than any other because people are messy. We are imperfect and make a ton of mistakes a day that require patience, peace, gentleness, kindness, and self-control even when undeserved.

But we keep at this important work because God gave us those people at our office, our neighborhood, and in our home.

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1, ESV).

Don’t lose heart. That is God’s desire for us. Keep loving, forgiving, enduring, serving, encouraging, and uplifting. God gave you those people for a reason. Because your love shows them a bit of Jesus in this selfish world. Don’t. Lose. Heart. Your impact matters.

Fragile yet Unbreakable

Distressed. Confused. Wronged. Beat down. These are the affects we feel from this messed up world. Yet when we are the  most fragile, in the deepest of despair, God’s people are unbreakable. YOU are unbreakable.

Read this chunk of truth and let it set in…

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, ESV).

The other day I got a package in the mail. A fragile item surrounded by three layers of bubble wrap and tucked in a taped up box. Because of the protection and guarding of the layers built up around it, it survived a cross country journey of bumpy terrain.

You and I, and the people we love, we are all fragile jars of clay rolling about as life swerves and jostles. But we are wrapped up in Christ. Maybe we are a little dizzy, but not broken. Perhaps a bit shaken, but not shattered. Not just for our comfort, but it is for His glory that His people survive the hard. Your life points others to Christ so they too can be wrapped up in his love.

You and I, and the people we love, we are all fragile jars of clay rolling about as life swerves and jostles. But we are wrapped up in Christ.

If we believe in Jesus, every hurt we encounter in this life can have purpose as we persevere leaning into Him. The Scripture above says our survival in incredible hardship is a testimony to God’s power working in us. That although alone we would be crushed, with Jesus we unbreakable.

I don’t know your story, but I’m sure you’ve had some curveballs along the way. You’ve experienced loss, you’ve been betrayed, you’ve been rejected, maybe forgotten about. You’ve wondered about the future, will it all turn out or come crashing down.

Yet as everything around us tells us to give up, give in, and lay down in defeat, Jesus steps up in our souls and helps us get up. Because with Jesus hope is alive and overcomes.

Yet as everything around us tells us to give up, give in, and lay down in defeat, Jesus steps up in our souls and helps us get up.

I pray you and I feel the comfort of Christ’s power and love wrapping us up today as life tries it’s best to make us crack. And I pray that when we get through our hard time with Jesus, that we look around for others and remind them they may feel fragile, but they are unbreakable in Christ.

 

water-3211175_1920Let’s be real:

What people or situations are or have tried to break you? How can you let Jesus into those hard spaces? Write a prayer asking Jesus to be your strength in your breaking points. Write and post in your house: With Jesus I am UNBREAKABLE!

 

Your outfit, bitterness or grace

What are you wearing today? Does it look good on you? In times of betrayal, I’m tempted to put on the ugliest outfit of all — bitterness– and then I read my favorite verse…

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful,” (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV).

“…And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony,” (Colossians 3:14 ESV).

We are scandalously loved by Christ. And so when there is chaos around us, we as God’s people, are entrusted to extend that undeserved love to others. Because God first loved us when we were a hot mess.

Believe me, I know, it’s hard.

If you have been lied to or betrayed this is the last thing you want to do. It doesn’t mean that you say it’s all OK. It doesn’t mean that you don’t ask God for justice. But it DOES mean that you hand it over to God, completely. You hand over the outfit you were going to put on of judgment, anger, and bitterness, and you exchange it for a lighter more beautiful outfit of compassion, kindness, patience, and forgiveness.

 

blur-1850082_1920

This wardrobe switch is as much for you as it is for the person who wronged you. Because these clothes feel better on your soul. They feel healing and warm and peaceful.

I don’t know what outfits are in your closet, or why they are there. I’m sure there are very valid reasons. But I pray that you and I can fold them up and give them to Jesus today as we come to him in prayer. And ask Him to help us choose to clothe ourselves in love, grace, and thankfulness so we can experience His peace.

 

Journal reflections:

book-bindings-3176776_1920What relationships are strained in your life because of sin or betrayal? Have you forgiven that person yet? What feelings would you have to give to Jesus to exchange for an outfit of grace and love towards that person? Knowing God loves you, write a prayer asking God to heal your heart and work out good in others lives.

Have Courage, Kindergarten Mama

In the course of a summer day, my 8-year-old cried because he lost his favorite rock, my 5-year-old practiced princess dancing in her Cinderella dress, and my 3-year-old snuggled his beloved blue blanket. Mothering littles is full of these sweet  moments. But I fear no matter how hard I try to press the invisible pause button, an unstoppable change is coming. And I’m going to need to borrow some courage.

The first day of kindergarten is this week for kid #2. She stretches her arms out wide to show me how nervous she is and then wider to show me how excited. Truth is she’s doing better than me. I’m way more nervous than excited. She’s my sweet babe and I don’t know how I will fare without her. Cue tears as I type.

Mamas are you with me? No doubt am I beyond proud of the independent and quirky girl she’s becoming. So. Stinkin’. Proud. But it’s still hard send her off after having invested 5 years of my 24/7 life to making sure she’s, well, everything…

Hungry? Here’s your red apple not yellow cut into lots of pieces with peanut butter on the side. Tired? Let’s snuggle with your star blanket with the tattered corner. Wanna go outside? Scoot bike to the park, babies in the stroller, or chalk on the sidewalk. Hurt? Kiss, hug, Bandaid from the bathroom drawer. And now it’s just…going to be different.

We watched a Cinderella movie tonight that we quoted afterward in princess voices, “Have courage and be kind.” And it made me break in two because it is too perfect for where we are. I pray that all our sweet babes have courage on all their first days this fall. And I pray that they would remember all that we have taught them, that kindness and love matters more than their reading level or state testing score.

And I pray for us moms as we grow our littles into bigs. That we would have courage to embrace all the changes and find new favorite things about every season of motherhood. And I pray that we would be kind to ourselves as we send our kids out into the world. That’s big and we may need some space, good friends, or Kleenex to process for awhile.

And if you are someone who has been through this season of motherhood and can look back empathetically and encourage a fellow mom along. Please do. We need to know it’s all going to be OK.

Pray for my heart this week…and send chocolate,

Andrea

Salvation Removes our Shame

Think of your very worst day. The one you hope no one saw. Or your biggest mistake. The one you still haven’t forgiven yourself for. What if I told you that Jesus was there that day. Would that make you squirm? Would you believe me if I told you that is the best news ever?

“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” John 4:29 ESV

In John chapter 4, Jesus was sitting by a well one day tired and thirsty. And up walked a woman. She was the kind of woman that others would avoid because she had slept around. Yet Jesus spoke to her and asked her for a drink. Instead of serving Jesus, she wondered why a Jewish man, someone who clearly out ranked a Samaritan woman, would even speak to her. She almost missed Jesus because she was insecure.

She almost missed Jesus because she was insecure.

Sometimes we feel like that, right? We think, why would Jesus love me? Why would He ever hear or answer my prayers? Why would He be on my side if He really knew what I have done and all the ways I’ve messed up.

Truth is He does know. But His response is the opposite of what we deserve.

Jesus knows every time we spoke out of anger, all the failures in motherhood or marriage, and every gossip or lie we ever told. He could say it’s time to reap your consequences! Instead, like He did for the woman at the well, He offers himself instead of condemnation and shame.

hand-1576418_1920

“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water”” John 4:10.

Because Jesus led a sinless life and died a sinners death on the cross, we get to take our worst moments and trade them for God’s grace and forgiveness. If you’ve trusted your life to Jesus and asked for forgiveness, He’s not thinking about your past anymore and He doesn’t want you to dwell there either.

It’s hard sometimes to let go of the past, but we have to in order to truly accept grace from God. What do you need to let go of today? What mistake do you need to forgive yourself for? Jesus wants your eyes forward looking out for opportunities to grant others the mercy you have received.

Fearing Forward with Jesus

Heart pounding. Dry mouth. Hands shaking. Words fumbling. Anxiety at its finest. The first time I spoke in front of an audience about God was a total flop by earthly standards. I rushed  through as fast as possible so I didn’t have to stand up there alone for one more second. I had let fear take over and drive me into failure. Or so I thought.

I went home and cried.

Why did God call me to write, speak, and encourage others in His name if I couldn’t physically do it? Didn’t He know  I wasn’t capable of this? Didn’t He know I’m comfortable hiding right here in front of my computer?

He did know that, but He also knew I needed to learn an important lesson before moving forward. That none of this– the failures nor the wins– are about what I am capable of alone. It’s about Jesus working with me for my good and the good of others as we step forward in faith.   

It’s about Jesus working with me for my good and the good of others as we step forward in faith.   

After seeing their beloved Jesus die on a cross, I imagine His followers were confused and afraid. Maybe they even felt abandoned in the faith they were once so sure of. Jesus, knowing every one of their fears, showed Himself to His disciples to encourage their faith and to instruct them.

Some followers believed when they saw Jesus, others needed help believing.

“And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:17-20 esv).

When faced with fear, followers of Christ have a choice to make — will we doubt His presence? Or believe Jesus is truly with us in the struggle? What we choose determines if we can overcome our fears.

Many times I’ve doubted in my life. I’ve believed I was alone in parenting struggles, marriage lows, job crises, health scares — and most recently the first time I stood in front of an audience. Somehow I got the idea that God was here for the overall picture but not the day to day ugly. Wrong.

I poured over Matthew 28:17-20 thinking about how Jesus tells to go out boldly in his name. It struck me that before Jesus asks His disciples to go, He tells them all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Him. This is important, not just because it allows us to trust that we have a powerful God, but because of the words that follow.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” If Jesus is with us, that means His power is too.

If Jesus is with us, that means His power is too.

As a language teacher I know words cannot be translated perfectly. I wanted to know exactly what that meant that “I am” would be “with” us “always”. So I looked up the original Greek to better understand these important words of our Savior.

Here’s the gist….

The word here for “I am” is “ego eimi” which is the same name Jesus refers to himself when He says “I am the way” in John 14:6. Interestingly, the Greek word for “with” in this passage is an active with. It’s a “with” that means Jesus is working in us, not just standing by watching as we labor solo . Lastly, “always” means each and every part of the total. Each moment that makes up our entire lives. Not just the pretty ones.

AndreaJuly9quoteBlogNoLogo

Putting this all together, Jesus promises to work with us every time He calls us to step out of our comfort zones.

Knowing this breaks down my fear when I step out in faith. Believing Jesus is working behind the scenes every time I put myself out there in obedience grows my confidence and propels me forward.  

We’re not alone, but when we feel as if we are, let’s remember Jesus’ promise. The great I am will be working with us in every moment, always.  

 

book-bindings-3176776_1920Let’s connect! How have you seen the great I AM at work in your everyday life? Comment below or on FaceBook and read more about overcoming fear with Jesus over at www.Whollyloved.com.

Or better yet, attend an upcoming Bold and Brave conference!

-Andrea

Overcoming the Bewitching Hour

I have two bewitching hours. You know, the hours that you are just done with the day? First is suppertime when children are running crazy, hanging on my leg, dog is barking, “mom I’m hungry!!!”, and the noodles overflow. If we survive that,  bedtime is a minefield of emotions. One is crying because her head hurts, one is crying because he doesn’t want the princess cup, and one is moving like a sloth.

Lord help me finish strong.

I prayed at night when I had already let my impatience show. Then I remembered the verse I had read earlier in the day, Colossians 3:12-15.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, … And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV).

Bear with your people in compassion and patience. Forgive. Love. Let Christ rule your heart even in your bewitching hour. And be thankful.

Let Christ rule your heart even in your bewitching hour. And be thankful.

It was all so good. So perfectly what I needed. But that last line, “And be thankful” was the most important. It was the way to turn my selfish attitude into a serving heart.

As I tucked in my children, I looked at them and smiled. I soaked up their sweet little voices. I didn’t mind the need for extra dreams on their forehead or more snuggles instead of sleep. Jesus helped me finish strong by ruling my heart and creating thankfulness.

And today He reminded me again. As I sat down to read Mark 6:30-34 the disciples have put in a long day of healing, they are tired and hungry. When they list off all they’ve accomplished to Jesus, his response in verse 31 is “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (NIV).

When we are tired. Jesus wants us to come to him, in a quiet place, and He will give us what we need to keep going.denim-1839955_1920

Still while Jesus, in compassion, desired to meet the needs of 5,000, the disciples grumbled… Wouldn’t it be easier just to send them away? We’re tired! It’s late! We’ve done a lot today! Sound familiar? Those are the same thoughts that run through my mind at my bewitching hours.

But Jesus modeled what to do. He took the little food the disciples had, gave thanks and was able to feed 5,000 people with it.

Jesus is the same Son of God now as He was then. And that moment was for us, too.

When we come to Jesus in our grumbling, if we listen, He can redirect our hearts to compassion and thankfulness. Only Jesus can take the little we have left and multiply it to meet the needs of others.

Only Jesus can take the little we have left and multiply it to meet the needs of others.

Truth is I can’t conquer the day alone. Only with Jesus we are able to claim and live out Colossians 3:12-15. He enables us to clothe ourselves with compassion and patience and bear with each other in love, and make our hard moments sweet…

And make our hearts thankful.

 

 

Let’s be REAL…

sunset-401541_1920What are your bewitching hours? Where do you need Jesus to multiply the little you have left into enough patience, love, and mercy for the people around you? At work? At home? With friends or family?

Join A Fruitful Woman community on FB and see what others are saying! Or come to an upcoming WhollyLoved conference .

 

The Most Dangerous Fear

I made my kid throw a boot at a spider because I was afraid to go near it. I hate ferris wheels for fear I will fall out. And tornado sirens make me stop in my tracks. All of us are afraid of something. But I’m guessing if I asked you your biggest fear, you wouldn’t automatically respond, “People!” even though it’s the most dangerous fear there is…..

Read more over at WhollyLoved today. We’re talking living past our fear and into a bold life with Christ! Who doesn’t want that?? Be bold and brave today ladies!