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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.

 

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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.

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“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.

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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!

 

 

Public Teachers do God’s work

The leader of the pack was in my public school homeroom. When he wasn’t there he was most likely in in-school suspension. But after weeks and months of standing at my door giving high-fives, smiles, and compliments to students, I had gained his trust. He was in my room asking me to pray. Could a public teacher do God’s work?

“Miss C. you’re Christian, can you pray for me? I think my girlfriend is pregnant.”

How did he know I was Christian? I didn’t tell the class. I wore a cross necklace sometimes but this was public school. I couldn’t say anything about my faith. Right?

Feeling like someone would bust into my room and fire me for praying, I did it anyway. I prayed over his future, over his choices, and spoke truth of God’s love. I couldn’t help but cry. Thankful that I could pray with this one, but wished I could tell each one that God loves them more than anything.

I was thankful I could pray with this one, but wished I could tell each one that God loves them more than anything. 

But Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).

Sometimes I felt like there was a gag in my mouth working in public school. Where I worked, some of the kids were more street smart than I was. But really they were just kids. Kids who needed love– a love big enough to fill in some of the hurt.

I learned quickly that showing the love of Jesus doesn’t have to be with words, or explicit gospel teaching. It truly is about showing. Our loving actions in everyday small ways opens doors for Christ to do big work in people’s hearts.

Our loving actions in everyday small ways opens doors for Christ to do big work in people’s hearts. 

John affirms this saying, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth”(1 John 3:18 NIV).

Some students accidentally called me ‘mom’. Some were in foster care, some homeless, some pregnant, others from loving families. Still they were mine from 7:20-3:10. It was my responsibility to grow their minds and prepare them for the next level.

But in order to do that I had to show them I loved them like my own kid.

It was hard for me to let my oldest son go to kindergarten. And truly it doesn’t really get much easier. My heart hurts a little when he waves on the bus, and I still miss him during the day when he’s not at the table for lunch. But I know how much his teacher loves him as I loved my students. For eight hours a day, Luke is her kid, too.

So I want to say, “Thank you!!” teachers of every level and every school for loving our kids this year. You did God’s work in your classrooms and your love for our kids is one more piece of evidence showing Jesus on this earth.

See you in the fall.

#allthemoms

I was sitting on a bench at the park with a mom-friend having my only adult conversation of the day. Our kids were climbing the tornado slide and shooting hoops independently while we sat and took a break from mothering. Another mom sat across the park from us… in the sand, digging, laughing, and playing with her kids. Soon she got up, put her little boy on her shoulders while pushing a stroller up a hill.

We sat there watching her amazing mom efforts from our cozy restful bench, and I felt a little humbled by her obvious mothering prowess.

“You’re my hero!” I said to the woman who seemed to have more energy than me and my friend combined.

“Oh, I just finally have a day off to be with my kids! Gotta soak it up.” she said waiving off my compliment.

That little moment reminded me that there is no place for comparison in mothering. We are all struggling either inwardly or externally to be the best mom for our kids. And we are all amazing.  For some of us that means taking a break on the bench for sanity, and for some it means being present and playing in the sand.

We are all struggling either inwardly or externally to be the best mom for our kids. And we are all amazing. 

I’ve been on both sides of the mom coin. I’ve been a full-time working mom who misses her kid so much she doesn’t want to go anywhere on the weekends because she wants to soak in every moment with those little snuggle bugs. And I’ve been a stay at home mom who plays all day long and needs her little snuggle bugs to play independently at the park because she’s needs an adult moment.

No matter what way you do it, mothering is the best, hardest, most rewarding, and most emotionally challenging role in a woman’s life. It is full of tender moments that are only experienced between you and your child. And it is full of worry, self-doubt, and fear that you are doing it all wrong or not doing it as well as the next mom.

No matter what way you do it, mothering is the best, hardest, most rewarding, and most emotionally challenging role in a woman’s life.

Here’s some of what I want to say to all my mom friends out there… 

To my pre-moms who are are trying to get pregnant and struggling or who are pregnant and are hyper worried. You are already a good mom because you already love your someday baby and are already wishing and hoping and praying for it’s future. The pregnancy journey can be lonely and long, but God is there to listen to every worry, fear,  or doubt. You will be amazing!

To my SAHMoms of littles who are just plain exhausted. Keep going. Your love and snuggles and never-ending days will be short-lived, but you will smile when you look back on these days and your kids will remember all that you do. Take care of your heart so you can take care of your littles. Know that for you and your life, you are the only person God wanted to take care of those littles which means less of yourself and more of son-2935723_1920them right now. But it’s worth it and you are simply amazing.

To my working mom friends who are equally exhausted. You are loving your kids just as much and you are building confidence in their little hearts as they see you rockin’ it at whatever you do. I remember when my mom finished college in my teen years with high marks and got her first job at a bank. I had never been more proud of her in my life and I told everyone about her accomplishments. She has been my biggest cheerleader in school, and a listening ear for all my dreams in life– no matter how crazy they are. Working moms, you are simply amazing.

To my moms of teens who are just plain lost in the world of adolescence and are hanging on to motherhood by prayers and God’s wisdom. We are here with you to listen and pray and encourage you. Please remember the lessons you learn on this journey and pass them down to us moms of littles. We will need your help soon! You are our role models. Stay strong. You are amazing!

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To my single mom friends. You are stronger than anyone I know. You do it all. Often times with no recognition or help. You are master jugglers of work, school, kids, and emotions. You are so strong that sometimes it’s hard for you to accept help and support. But we are with you. We are for you. We are amazed by you as you lead your people in love.

To my moms of kids that face big challenges— kids who suffer from physical illnesses,  learning struggles, mental, emotional, or social battles. It’s just plain harder. I wish I could take some of your burden and lighten your worry load. But the only thing I know is that our God is bigger and stronger than anything that our kids will face. When you feel out of control, He is in control. Let God be God of every moment that feels too big or too much, and let yourself just be you, amazing and wonderful you.

And to my grandmas and mother-in-laws out there. Simply where would we be without you??? We are so thankful for all the meals, hugs, help, love, and wisdom you have filled us with. You tell us we can do it and we believe you. You lift us up when we feel like we have nothing else. You bring coffee and smiles and sanity to our lives. You invest your time in your grandkids when you could be off doing your own thing. You make this mothering business so much lighter and remind us to keep focused on what’s important. You are simply amazing.

I have so much love for all you moms out there. In a world that tells you you are not enough, I just wanted to tell you that you are amazing.

Happy Mother’s Day!

-andrea