WFMW: Saying Yes Changed Everything

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster, Jennifer, for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

We were in the front of a little church in Nsongwe Village praying for women during a women’s conference. All of a sudden, one of my friends grabbed me, honestly I thought she was coming in for a hug, but she wasn’t. She held me tight and whispered in my ear, “Your yes matters.” She went on to say that because of my yes others would come to know Jesus and work on their faith. I was startled to say the least. How could she have known I had just been reading that very same phrase in Rhinestone Jesus? We weren’t even Facebook friends yet! After that I just balled like a baby. I love how Jesus works. When you say yes to Jesus, He just trickles into every aspect of your life.

Saying yes to Jesus changed everything for me. When I said yes my life was in shambles. My husband was on his way to prison. I was a new wife, a new mom, and newly living with my mom. This was not exactly how I pictured my life going down. I remember kneeling at the end of my bed after putting my baby girl to sleep. I just laid it all out for God and the mess I was in. I asked Him to come into my life and everything changed.

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Saying yes to Jesus changed how I lived marriage. I had been married before. It didn’t end well. I made selfish choices based on my ideas. I thought I knew Jesus then. I thought I really knew Jesus. Divorce is painful and I was headed that way for the second time when I said yes to Him. Truly.  Some things in our marriage were gradual others were instant. I remember sitting down with my pastor and he looked at me with all the love he could muster and told me that love is a choice. Just like Jesus choosing to go to the cross for me. That was a game changer. If God would still choose to love me as unlovable as I could be, how could I not try to follow His plan for marriage instead of my own? I knew how my version ended. It was not good. My husband and I gave Jesus our marriage and watched Him do amazing things. Six years later we’re still going strong, because our foundation isn’t built on sand anymore. To this day, I’d rather walk through that mess again than never have done it at all.

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Saying yes to Jesus changed how I lived motherhood. I had never been a mother before. I knew how to babysit, but at the end of the day the kids go home. I knew the basics of mothering my daughter in her infant stage. Like feed, burp, change, bathe, sleep, repeat. I knew there would be more though, because that precious girl in my arms was going to grow. What then God? I read my Bible about parenting, read the attributes of God, and prayed my heart out. I found a godly woman at church who seemed to have this parenting thing somewhat together and sought her out as my friend. I drilled her with questions and sometimes I just watched how she parented. I still do that. Saying yes to Jesus means I don’t know all the answers, but God does. It means hitting my knees and seeking His Council for her life. It means disciplining with a Biblical perspective and not my own opinions. It means living and giving grace and mercy. Plus loving that sweet girl like it is nobody’s business.

Saying yes to Jesus changed how I lived loving others. Sometimes that means shutting up when I really want to say something. I need my Philippians 4:8 filter and a glue stick instead of a chap stick. Sometimes it means doing things I myself don’t want to do, because I’m selfish like that. Mostly, it means trying to love people like Jesus loves people. Maybe it’s bringing a dinner, helping with homework, reading a book, making a phone call, or visiting in the hospital. For me it means partnering with a maternity home in Africa that is saving lives. Or as a family, going to the mission field and telling others about this amazing love that compels us to tell everyone we meet about Jesus. That His great love changes everything, because He first loved us. To share with others that God loves them, values them, and that they are important to Him. It means dying to self. Somewhere along the way I realized I must have been the Grinch. I continue to watch as God enlarges my heart, and more love than I thought possible fills it up. Just when I think it might burst at the seams, He fills it up again. Loving others Jesus’ way will do that to you.

Saying yes to Jesus changes everything if you let Him. He comes in and turns your whole world upside down for the better.  Saying yes to Jesus will take you places you never thought you would go. For me that’s Mercy House, Africa, Ecuador, and one Thanksgiving hunting down someone who was hungry to give a turkey to. People are watching your yes. Jesus is watching your yes. You might not always do your yes well, I don’t. That’s where grace and mercy comes in. Dust yourself off and keep going. Your yes matters to God. Your yes matters to you. Your yes matters to others. Your yes matters to your spouse, your children, family, friends, and even strangers. Leave a legacy of yes. Let Jesus change everything.

 

Bio:

bioJennifer lives in Florida with her husband and daughter. Her family has a heart for sharing Jesus with the nations. She loves her family, coffee, books, good conversation, travelling the world, and most of all, Jesus. You can find her writing about her adventure with God, marriage, motherhood, and ministry at This Grace Life.

 

The Beauty of Unwrapping Christmas Every Day (Even the Ugly Ones)

I had grand plans for the first night of Advent.

Just imagine the setting with me: Holy Christmas music in the background, my family breaking bread together over a lovely home cooked meal, while we politely asked about each other’s day and write down a long list of our blessings. We would listen intently to the daily reading, reflect quietly as we pondered the truth and then gather around our Jesse tree to place the first ornament on it together.

But somehow on the first night of Advent, we ended up eating overpriced sandwiches at Schlotzsky’s across from our church because our kids were running late for youth group. We had a lovely family fight (complete with teen eye rolls, tween grumbling and whining from the whole lot) for good measure.  By the time I remembered the new Advent book I tucked into my purse at the last minute, I felt like a failure.

I’m pretty sure everyone sighed loudly when they saw it, too. Because failure is good at convincing us it’s too late, even before we even start.

Terrell pushed through and read Ann’s words aloud in that sandwich shop: “There was this family-Jesse’s family. A family that was like yours…a family that loved each other and hurt each other and forgave each other and failed each other. A family that failed God….They failed and fell and were like a fallen tree.”

I smiled at him as he read on about the miraculous shoot springing up from that hopeless family stump…”out of the stump came one tender branch that would grow right into a crown of thorns, right into a rugged cross, right into a ladder back to God….”

I swallowed down my frustration and in the first few sentences of this book, I didn’t remember my failure.

I remembered what God can do with it.

When we got home, I asked my baby to place the first Jesse tree ornament on the tree. There was no music and it was far from holy. And she reminded me twice she wasn’t a baby.

But even without the perfect setting, it was still important.

We can’t quit, even on the ugly days.

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Because it’s not the gifts under the tree our children will remember–the must-have electronics, the hottest toys–it’s the traditions.

This week, she wanted the stockings hung in order, just so. She asked for loud Christmas music while we decorated the tree and she arranged and rearranged  Baby Jesus as the Star of Season- just like last year and the one before.

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Traditions are more than hot chocolate while looking at Christmas lights or opening new matching pajamas on Christmas Eve while listening to Dad read The Night Before Christmas.

And that’s why we push through our failed plans and our own failures. Because traditions are the act of passing down what we believe to our children.

It’s not just a great idea; it’s a gift we give our kids. We practice and retell truth and it works it’s way into their hearts.

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And there is no better opportunity to teach these important truths this time of year.

Because the Gift has come.

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Christmas is for The Unwrapping.

More than anything, I long to slow down the rush of the Season, to linger, to focus on the meaning behind the traditions. I want to remember why we remember and I want to pass the Truth to my children.

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Counting down the days to Christmas isn’t just a fun family activity. It’s not just another thing to add to our list. Celebrating Advent makes us reflect on the meaning behind the grand tree and gifts we give to each other. It makes us pause in the craziness of the season and remember the reason for it.

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Advent is the best tradition to unwrap Christmas with our family because it’s the best way to pass down Truth.

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It’s the retelling of the Greatest Story. And it’s not just for the first 24 days of December.

It’s the intentional, meaningful, day-by-day unwrapping of the Greatest Gift ever given.

Even on the ugly days.

Especially then.

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The book: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
The ornaments pictured above. Or download ornaments.

[This post is sponsored by Tyndale Publishers. All opinions and ideas are mine.]

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WFMW: Saying Yes is Risky

 

I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster, Erika for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

Sharing on Kristen’s blog, knowing that thousands may read this post, I am tempted to write about the “wow” yeses. You know, those moments that felt big and important and risky and profound.

My pride wants to impress you and my insecurity longs to win your approval by sharing what we’ve done and how we’ve influenced people for the kingdom and taken risks for God’s glory. But saying “yes” isn’t about me impressing you. Obeying God’s call has little to do with what everyone else thinks and everything to do with pleasing God.

I used to tell my students that following Jesus is the greatest adventure they could ever take. And it is.

Following Jesus means listening to His voice and following His lead. But it also means making decisions and choosing paths when the answer isn’t clear and the plan not fully understood. Following Jesus means walking by faith, and faith, by definition, means I won’t have all the answers. The outcomes won’t all turn out as I plan.

Saying yes to Jesus is risky. Many times, our yes, means leaving what is nailed down and secure — resigning from a job or taking a new opportunity, giving when the budget is tight or putting our reputation on the line because we’re standing up for what is right.

Saying “yes” to God can be big and audacious and exhilaratingly scary.

But here’s the thing.

Sometimes we get so caught up in looking for adventure, in looking for those audacious yeses to God that we start saying no to the areas where He has called us to be faithful.

Following Jesus is the greatest adventure – but sometimes that adventure looks ordinary, conventional, and maybe a little boring.

Our family has said some big yeses to God. We’ve given up and given in and given away, but one of the hardest yeses that God has asked me to make is to be faithful in the small, ordinary, sacrificial moments of marriage and motherhood.

God hasn’t asked me to merely be faithful to my husband. He also asks me to respect my husband, to serve him, and to share myself with him. God asks me to step closer when I want to pull away and pray for him when all I want to do is complain.

Similarly with my children. God is not calling me to say yes only with my time and energy. He’s calling me to say “yes” with my attitude as well.

I’m gonna be honest — a lot of times I say no.

I give in to my exhaustion and irritation and my downright selfishness. I stomp my feet or huff and puff or let resentment live in my heart, but the more I say yes — yes to patience and kindness and to obeying God’s Word and His Spirit — the more I surrender my pride and selfishness and plan, the more I say yes to God’s will, God’s way, the more joy and blessing and fullness of life I find all around me.

The little yeses matter, maybe even more than the big ones. After all, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10 ESV).

By God’s grace, I’m learning to say yes.

Yes, yes, yes to God, right here in my mess.

Bio:

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The wife of one amazing guy and Mom to four young kids, Erika is passionate about the Word of God and prayer, and her desire is to help people, young and old, grow in their relationship with Jesus.gue

Erika blogs regularly at erikadawson.com and is a contributing writer at ForTheFamily.org and the Allume Conference blog. She also speaks to women’s and parenting groups, and directs the Sunday morning children’s ministry at her church. You can also find her hanging out on Facebook or Instagram.

Her heart is for encouraging others to live out an authentic, courageous faith and equipping families to disciple their children.

She is the author of Pray Truth: Praying God’s Word for our Husband’s Heart and Clean on the Inside: A Family Devotional for Holy Week.