Return. Rest. Quiet. Confidence.

  “This is what Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you will have none of it’.” Isaiah 30:15 NLT (emphasis added) Return. Rest. Quiet. Confidence. These four words are many times extremely difficult for us to live out, especially when we are confronted with a struggle. But the honest truth is that all of us have struggles. Even though each person’s struggle may seem different on the outside, the core of each one is simple: there is something happening that we don’t like. And instead of resting in God’s authority and strength, we try to fix the situation in our limited human ability. But there are just some things that are out of our control. Yes, God wants us to use the mind and imagination He has gifted us to influence circumstances according to His will. However, He allows us to enter storms that we can’t change, fix or make disappear. And in these situations we must Return to God, Rest in His sovereignty, remain Quiet in His strength, and have Confidence in His will. It is a scary proposition this “letting go of control,” but it is so freeing. Knowing that there is absolutely nothing we can do to solve the problem forces us to make a choice. We can either allow worry to strangle our peace and joy or we can reach outside of ourselves for a supernatural peace and joy that is only found in God. During the prophetic ministry of Isaiah, God’s...

The Self-harm of Words

Self-mutilation, self-injury and self-harm–these are the words that describe a condition of a person who purposefully  hurts him/herself. Whenever we experience first hand someone struggling with self-harm, we can’t believe our eyes. The evidence of self-hurt is caught in grotesque images of cuts, burns and bruises. People struggling with this condition willfully hurt themselves because of a condition in the heart. It’s interesting that we instantly seek help for people struggling with physical self-harm, but every day we ourselves experience emotional self-harm and think nothing of it. We speak negative words over ourselves, and we believe this is normal or even okay. But negative self-talk is not okay. We damage God’s beautiful creation with every word that cuts, burns and bruises our hearts and souls. I struggle with negative self-talk, and I think (if women were honest) many of us do. We want to be thinner, prettier, smarter, more talented, funnier and more adventurous. We examine our flaws with a microscope and purposefully ignore God’s thoughts of truth about us. We self-multilate with every piercing thought and word and wonder why we can’t find joy in our day. But what we don’t realize is that emotional self-harm is a condition of the heart too. We have forgotten what our Heavenly Father says about us, and we have listened to and believed the lies of the Enemy. Today, we need to stop the negative self-talk–even little mean words can chip away at our joy. We must start each day with a fresh revelation of how God sees us. Our emotions need to be set in truth from the get-go and...

Coral Cliff

For Spring Break, our family went on a Caribbean cruise. Only recently have our kids grown old enough to appreciate such an international trip. One of the stops on the itinerary was the island of Roatan, which is part of Honduras. We had a snorkeling excursion scheduled, and I couldn’t wait to float over the coral reef in that area. Right away, my seven-year-old daughter did not want to snorkel, so I told my husband to go with our boys without me. Although I wanted to have the snorkeling experience, I was content to lie on the beach and watch my daughter pick up seashells. After an hour, my husband and middle son decided that they were done snorkeling, so they met me back at the beach. However, our oldest son (11 years old) wanted to keep snorkeling, so I decided to grab my gear and join him. My husband was happy to chill on one of the beach chairs and bask in the sun. I met my son in the water, and we floated together, following a rope that led through the coral reef. Never before had I seen so many amazing colored fish. Every one was vibrantly painted, and I couldn’t help but be amazed at the creativity of our God. As I followed my son in awe of the colorful world beneath me, the coral reef dropped off at least 125 feet. To a person who has a fear of heights, the sight of the coral cliff falling away into a dark blue abyss was alarming. Instantly, I felt my chest tighten. My son kept floating...

The Papa Lion

I had a free evening at home after the kids went to sleep. My husband wanted to go for a run, so I asked him to find me something fun to watch on TV before he left. I have “learned incompetence” when it comes to the remote control, so he scrolled through the channels until a lion documentary presented itself. “Oh, that looks interesting,” I said. It was only about 40 minutes long, so I figured it would be done before he got home. Plus, I could learn a little something while I relaxed. As the show continued, I was introduced to a pride of lions. There was a daddy lion, three mamas and a whole bunch of cubs. I enjoyed getting to know each lion and his/her prospective place in the pride. The little cubs of the pride were able play, watch and learn as much as they could. They didn’t make their first kill until about two years old, so the rest of the time they experienced crazy, little antics of trial and error. The mamas, however, did a lot of work. Not only did they all take turns nursing, protecting and teaching the young cubs, they also made all the kills for the entire family. All three of mamas worked together to bring down the zebra or warthog in an amazing display of teamwork and strength. As the show progressed, I became a little put out by the daddy lion. He seemed to lie around all day, play with the kids a little and, when the mamas made their kill, he went straight over and had...

Bath Bombs for Jesus

I was never a bath person. During my twenties, I was too busy working and going to school. And during my thirties, I was too busy keeping up with babies and toddlers. Now that I’m 39 years old, and my youngest child is almost seven, a few of those moment-to-moment demands have slacked off a little. I can actually ask all three of my kids to read a book and have thirty minutes all to myself! My forties are looking brighter, and I won’t let a few wrinkles get in the way! I never thought I could create a tranquil spa experience in my own home. My home is a place to be a mother, writer and wife, but it was never a getaway place for relaxation and tranquility–until I looked at that big, empty tub in the middle of my bathroom with fresh eyes! I dusted off the cobwebs (literally) and purchased a few spa elements—sea salt, essential oils, soaps and the amazing BATH BOMBS! Where have those lovely, balls of explosive awesomeness been all my life?! Since I never experienced a bath bomb before, I didn’t really know what to expect. I filled the tub, played some relaxing music, grabbed my current book and plunged into bliss! I took the fabulous bath bomb out of its wrapper and read the little label that came with it. I don’t recall the exact words of the label, but I remember that it sounded magical. I gently grasped the bath bomb and tenderly dipped it into the water. Suddenly, the chalky consistency began to fizz and the wonderful ingredients spread...

Better or Bitter

In celebration of the New Year, and the new possibilities available to us, we will be giving away three copies of Alisa Hope Wagner’s new health book, Fearlessly Fit! All you have to do to enter the drawing is comment on this post below, leaving your email address. We will select our winners on Tuesday, January 5!     The New Year is time for getting rid of all those holiday calories. I’ve been working out all my adult life, and I know that there is nothing much you can do about feasting with family and friends. It is part of the celebration of Christ, and I’m not going to be a holiday food snob. Although I don’t go overboard, I do allow myself about a 3-pound weight gain, which is why I love January 1. It’s the time to get the sugar intake under control and lose that extra poundage! Working out is my favorite way to get back to my preholiday weight. I especially love doing compound exercises that work several muscles at once, including the heart! One exercise that wrecks me every time (in a good way) is the step up split lunge with weights. This is a highly controlled exercise that uses almost every muscle in the body, including the core to control the body’s form. When watching someone do this exercise, it looks like a piece of cake because the body’s form is so controlled. However, when the person finally finishes and drops her weights, she is leaning over and heaving to catch her breath. I find it interesting that such a difficult exercise...

Construction of a Dream

There is a house near my neighborhood that has been in the process of construction for over three years. This Christmas will mark its third season of empty holidays—no family to fill it, no fireplace to warm it, no Christmas decoration to trim it—completely and utterly alone. But this state of emptiness does not mean that it has been idle. On the contrary, busy hands have been methodically building this home for endless days. The foundation alone took a full year, and the structure of the house took another year! Every time I pass this house, I’m amazed at what has been accomplished but keenly aware that it is not ready yet. To say this home is a mammoth is an understatement. And to say that it has been hurriedly constructed would be the opposite of the truth. In fact, the design of the house has obviously been well planned and every detail of construction has been scrutinized. The foundation goes deep and the structure of the home is made of steel, not wood. This house is being made to last centuries, not just a single lifetime! But… I wonder if the family had grown impatient to move in. I wonder if they have lost hope of ever stepping foot into their dream home. I wonder if they have visited the construction site to encourage themselves. As I look at this home, I find understanding for my own impatience, and I’m able to tighten my faith around a deeper hope. Many times God gives us promises that seem like they will never be fulfilled. We work diligently in obedience...

The Weight of Presence

I’m entering a new stage of motherhood: my youngest child is now almost 7 years old. I can actually sit in my house without worrying about diapers, baby food and exposed electrical outlets. As I contemplate the past 11 years of being a mother, there are some incidences that make me laugh. Once such incident happened when my daughter was only about 12 months old. I brought all three kids into the postal store—a feat that caused stress every time. My boys were then about 5 and 3 years old, so taking them to a store with fragile items placed low to the ground had my eyes alert and my body ready to react. After I finished mailing my item, I gathered up my boys. Thankfully, nothing had been moved or broken. I looked around for my daughter—who had recently learned to walk—but I couldn’t find her. I called out her name and began to frantically look around the rows of cards, stationary and other knickknacks, but I did not see her. My heart began to race. Either she walked outside or someone stole her! I told my boys to come with me. We needed to rush outside to find her. Just when I was about to sprint for the door, my oldest son yelled out, “Mom! I see her!” “Where is she?” I screamed. He pointed at me and said, “She’s in your arms!” I looked down and, sure enough, she was right there—on my right hip, tucked securely in the embrace of my right arm. I had gotten so used to the presence of kids in my...

Rock or a Frog?

  I woke up early this morning to get some writing done before the day started. Lately, the days have been filled to the brim with activity, leaving me with the dawn, knowing that I’d have at least a few hours alone. My dachshund, Rusty, realized I was up and came into my office. He sat down and stared at me for a brief moment before barking at me to take him outside. I quickly got up and hushed him to keep his burly voice down. I didn’t want the kids to wake up and commence the day too early. I walked him to the back door and opened it. He hurriedly jumped out, heading for the crisp, green grass. But before he made it off of the cement patio, he began to sniff. I heard a little “ribbit, ribbit.” I looked over and saw a frog the size of a Hot Wheels truck, sitting on his haunches and croaking in the early morning. The frog must have seen Rusty coming his way, because he instantly pushed his entire body down on the ground, closed his eyes and stopped croaking. As Rusty sniffed at him, the frog laid absolutely still. Not a peep could be heard or a single movement could be seen. Since my dog loves to chase things, I was sure he would go after this little frog. But after a few moments of sniffing and waiting, Rusty finally gave up and made his way to the lawn. I was just about to head back into the house, but I glanced at the frog one last time....

The Hammering Fork

As we were eating breakfast this morning, my husband told our oldest son—who may have been talking more than he was eating—to put his fork to work. My son instantly smiled and started to pretend that the fork was a hammer—hammering his eggs and bacon like they were nails on a wall. My husband then said, “That’s not how a fork works.” And my son quickly replied, “Well, you told me to put it to work.” I watched the scene unfold and laughed under my breath. Seeing the fork being used as a hammer was hilarious. Forks were used to eat food, not hit things. Then I had a sudden thought: How many of God’s children were created to be forks, but were working as hammers? We are each designed differently, and God has a special calling for our individual lives. If we go around doing work to which we have not been called, we will wear ourselves out just like the fork will eventually wear out if used as a hammer. God is very interested in the large and small aspects of our lives, and He has a purpose for each of us—a purpose that furthers His plan on earth. We can’t go around just acting like hammers just because it feels like we are “working” or doing “ministry.” We must seek God and hear what He has to say first. Then, if He calls us to the work, He will also prepare us and provide grace, so we can accomplish the task. God created us. He knows how we can best serve His kingdom. Once we discover...