Balance: Five Minute Friday

It’s a chilly Friday night in Ohio and I’m bundled up in my fluffy robe, fuzzy socks, and fleece blanket. This was one of those weeks that lingered beyond its welcome. Tuesday felt like Friday and each day thereafter was salt in the wound. I’m so glad to jump in on this Five Minute Friday because I’m in need of my community of writers tonight. I love plugging in and spending time in this group of encouragers. This week our prompt is Balance (how ironic!).

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Balance is one of those myths that we tell ourselves so that we believe that we will conquer chaos. Maybe I’m wrong and true balance does exist, but I feel like every time I take a step toward finding that perfect equation I get knocked off course. Part of me wants to believe that at some point I will realize that balance was there all along waiting for me to grasp. Another part of me is skeptical to its existence.

The problem is that I’m trying to balance way too many things.

Faith.

Family.

Friends.

Work.

Exercise.

Writing.

Etc…

The truth is that I cannot balance it all on my own. I go through seasons where I spend more energy in one area of my life than another. That’s the reality of balance. It’s an ever-changing concept. It’s a sliding scale. And the zen version of balance I’ve created in my mind is a pipe dream.

Balance is living each moment according to God’s plan. It’s listening to his direction and following his instruction.

Balance is saying “no” to myself and letting God take the lead. I’ll never achieve balance apart from Christ. Only He is both the Alpha and Omega.

He alone can make it work.

So for now I will rest in the knowledge that my life is in His hands. It isn’t up to me to find that balance. The only way I can overcome the chaos is through surrendering to God.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

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The Faith of a Child

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Last Sunday as we were headed home from church my oldest daughter and I somehow landed on the topic of baptism. On a few occasions she witnessed others within our church as they declared to the congregation their new life in Christ. Her curious mind probed my husband and I, but before long she lit up and said, “I want to be baptized.”

I was so proud of her decision. The fact that she could articulate the purpose of baptism at six years old is unfathomable to me. She’s a girl on fire for Jesus!

Yesterday our church celebrated her baptism along with several friends and family. The entire children’s program also came in so they could support her. After she came out of the water she was all smiles and shivers.

I’m so proud of the way she has chased after Jesus.

On October 3rd she prayed and accepted Jesus, but he was active in her life long before that. Her heart is evidence of that. She has a beautiful soul and is kind to everyone.

God has big plans for her.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

 

Value: Five Minute Friday

Happy Friday!

I hope those of you who live in the USA had an amazing Thanksgiving gathered with loved ones and lots of yummy food. Thanksgiving was a little different in my family this year as my youngest sister is living in Canada. Her empty seat at the table was a constant reminder of the miles between us. Thankfully, Mom and Dad are headed to Niagara today in a car packed with leftovers and cards from all of us.

Today I’m gathering with others that I am also thankful for as we meet up every Friday to share encouragement and life with one another. This week the Five Minute Friday community is writing on the prompt: Value.

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With the conclusion of Thanksgiving festivities our hearts turn in anticipation toward the Christmas season. I woke up this morning to a Facebook feed endlessly announcing Holiday sales. Like many, I spent time yesterday with the people that mean the most to me and being thankful for all the Lord has blessed me with. But, like many of you, I am so tempted to turn around–not 24 hours later, and cultivate a spirit of want.

Can we just have a day to simmer in the juices of thanksgiving? I mean, goodness, our turkeys marinate longer than us!

How can we so quickly switch from “Lord, thank you” to “Lord, I want”?

This holiday season I am praying to stay cognizant of my attitude.

I want to enter into this Christmas season with the same sense of thankfulness that I felt gathered around the table yesterday.

The promise of a Savior–that is why I am thankful and why I anticipate Christmas.

Please join me in remembering the true gift of family and placing value on the things that matter most this season.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Praying Proclamations

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How do you define prayer?

Based on your prayer habits how would you explain it?

Is prayer a dialogue between you and God or is it a one-way lifeline you resort to when all else fails?

If I’m being honest my prayer life has been more of the latter. I’ve rushed through prayer because life is busy and so I get all of my requests off my chest and then move on. The piece I’ve been lacking is the part where I quiet my heart and allow God to speak into it.

Listening is a weakness of mine.

Something about being the oldest of three girls I learned quickly that if I wanted to be heard it would take A LOT of talking. Once I get to know someone I can talk their ear off. I’m well-aware of my addiction to my own voice.

But prayer isn’t a time for me to practice asserting myself. It’s not a relationship if I don’t pause and let the other party speak.  I pray in the car on the way to work and I talk the WHOLE WAY.

When it comes to prayer I realize that most of the time that I’m talking I am asking, asking, asking. “God, please heal”, “God, please help”, “God, please show me…” It’s all a bunch of requests, but not a lot of thankfulness.

I do praise God for amazing things in my life, but I don’t think it is something that He hears enough from me.

Last night, as I sat in the youth group where I am serving in my church, I listened as the speaker read through many of Paul’s prayers. She read aloud the first several verses of every epistle and Wow, those are powerful words. Each book is opened with a greeting to it’s recipient, but also with Paul proclaiming who he is in Christ.

Following Paul’s example, the speaker asked each person to write out their proclamation. It’s easy to lose sight of who we are in Christ so this practice really helped me to refocus not just my prayer life, but my entire attitude. Below is my proclamation that I prayed last night:

Lauren, a servant of Jesus set free from selfishness;

in order to make disciples of

God’s Chosen People;

through the blood of Jesus I was set free from the bondage of sin;

And though it may present itself daily I am able to overcome by His blood.

I was created to learn, to teach, to grow, and to thrive so that all might come to a saving faith in the Lord.

What an awesome practice this was for my faith. In this act I was able to focus on who I really am as opposed to the lies of the enemy. It also cleared my mind to then listen and receive from God in a great way. If you’ve never done something like that please give it a try. It is empowering. Start by reading the first several verses of the books written by Paul (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians…) then write out WHO YOU ARE.

It may seem counter-intuitive that I said I need to listen more, but then also pray proclamations. However, when you begin your prayer time by refocusing your lens on who God says you are then the entire practice is flipped. You remind yourself of His goodness and suddenly all those requests you had planned to bring are trivial in the sight of His glory.

Finally, as a catalyst to improving my prayer life I am going to embark on a 40-day journey of written, honest prayer. Much of my time will be spent waiting on the Lord and listening as He speaks, but I want to record these prayers as a way of remembering.

Looking forward I’ve set some goals for my prayer life:

1. Listen and give God silence in which to move

2. Pray proclamations

3. 40 Days of written, honest prayer

Will you join me in this journey?

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Operation Christmas Child

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Operation Christmas Child is an international organization that provides financial and physical needs all over the world. It is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, an interdenominational charity. This is the twenty-fifth year that OCC has impacted global needs. I love this organization and how easy they make it to teach my children about the importance of serving and giving to others. Every year since she was two my oldest has packed shoe boxes and she looks forward to it every Christmas season.

 

This weekend our church hosted an Operation Christmas Child packing party. They receive donations all year and during the party families come in and help pack the boxes. My daughter loved walking along the tables with her grandparents and hand-picking items for those in need of gifts this season.

This year we packed over 500 shoe boxes as a church!

It’s not too late to get involved. This is Drop-off week for OCC. If you would like to pack a shoe box and want to know where to take it check out their website for locations.  For directions on how to pack a shoebox check out their site!

 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

The Ameri Brit Mom

Burden: Five Minute Friday

Happy Friday!

Every Friday I love to join other Christian writers over at Five Minute Friday where we gather to share inspiration on a similar prompt. This week the prompt is Burden.

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

If you are anything like me…

It’s been a long week and each day seemed to bring a new burden of its own. You’re scared of moving forward because with each step a new devastation is thrust your way. So instead of moving–you stand paralyzed with feet fitted to the ground and a load as wide as an elephant on your back.

In many ways 2018 has found me this way. Like a deer in the headlights I’ve been caught off guard a time or two and been unable to move. The fear, loss, and hurting that I’ve faced have lightened by the passing of time, but every new burden gets cast onto the ever growing pile accumulating on my shoulders.

At times I’ve been so focused on the things weighing me down that I’ve forgotten that my body was not created to take that on. No wonder I’ve been struggling with anxiety…I’m dragging the world’s largest trash bag of junk, but God is the only one who can lift it.

We can find help in physical rest, but until we give our burdens fully to God we will never feel lighter.

I don’t have to wait until 2019 for healing. I can let go today. In fact, my knees are bending now and my hands are opening and as I approach the throne of God I know He is waiting for me to give it all up.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Repeat: Five Minute Friday

I want to start this post with a few disclaimers:

  1. I spent a little longer than five minutes writing this post. If you read it you will understand why it warranted some rule-bending.
  2. This post contains some sensitive information. If you have difficulty reading about suicide or death you may not want to go any further.
  3. I normally don’t post things of this nature, but I need an outlet for the things I’ve been dealing with this week.
  4. I’m fine. But my heart is broken…

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I first met J my senior year of college. He was a first grader at the school where I was working part-time. Some days I dreaded going in to work after a full day of student teaching, but J always changed that. The moment I would arrive at his school he would greet me with a hug, goofy smile, and “Miss Lauren!”

J became my buddy.

When we had field trips he always asked to sit with me. We would play around with filters on my phone and pass the time making silly faces.

Two years later my husband got a job at that same school as third grade teacher. When he brought home his roster and I saw J was in his class I told him all about him. Throughout that year I loved hearing stories about J and I would ask about him often.

Over the past few years I would see J or his parents in the community and say “hello.” Every time I saw him I remembered those bus rides and his innocent laughter and hugs.

But this fall, something was different about J.

I was so excited when I found out he enrolled in my school. I even made a joke to a co-worker that I would trade J for any other student because sadly, he was not in my class. I told this teacher about my memories with J.

Now…to this week.

I found out early in the week that J had committed suicide.

My heart is absolutely shattered. I may not have known him as well these past few years, but whenever I thought about J it brought me joy. He made coming to work fun and he filled those long hours with jokes and giggles.

I will never understand why this happened. The why doesn’t even matter to me.

J is gone and he has left a path of destruction. He was loved. He was good. And he will be missed.

As a teacher, hearing this type of news is devastating. You spend so much of your time trying to connect with kids and build the element of trust. You want to see every one of your students succeed at life. A difficult part of this whole situation is that J wasn’t just someone who sat in my classroom for one year. No, my path has intersected several times with J since he was six years old. For almost nine years I’ve watched him grow.

My husband and I have been struggling with this news for days.

It has made us hug our own children a little tighter, pray a little longer, and repeat words of affirmation more often. I know from this situation that it could happen to anyone. J had parents who loved him and supported him in so many ways. So, I’ve been on my knees for my own girls this week.

Let the people in your life know that you care. Every child, student, adult that means something to you–let them know. Be there to listen when loved ones need it. Spread love when you sense hate. Don’t let an interaction go by without telling people that you care.

Life is short.

We have no idea what people are going through.

May J be a catalyst to help the world to choose LIFE.

J, you are gone too soon!

The Ameri Brit Mom

God Is Working In My Obedience

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Serving youth has always been a passion of mine. I work in a high school where my aim has been to positively impact the students in my classroom since DAY 1. A year ago we took a step of faith and left the church where we had become comfortable and followed God’s leading to a church in the community where we live and work. The Lord met us in that place in a very real way and we have seen growth in our daughter, marriage, and faith as a result.

The Lord has blessed us richly.

Not only were we welcomed into the new church with grace, but God provided many opportunities for us to dive in and serve almost immediately. Last Christmas we helped pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, our daughter jumped in and fell in love with the Childrens Ministry and AWANA, my husband and I took foundational classes and our most recent venture has been my involvement in the Youth Group.

Every week I work alongside another female leader to coach a small group of girls in the church. We play games, listen to messages, read the Bible, and pray for one another every week. Last week, we finished our first book of the Bible since I started serving: Ephesians.

God has blessed me and grown me so much since I took the step of obedience to serve the youth of the church. First of all, I am able to work with students from the school  in a brand new context. I love being able to step outside of school curriculum and openly minister to these girls on Sunday nights.

Secondly, when I was approached by the Youth Pastor to pray about my involvement with the girls ministry I had so many thoughts run through my head. Lord, am I strong enough for this? I am coming out of one of the hardest seasons of my life. Can I really be the leader that these girls need me to be? But almost immediately my decision was confirmed when a student connected with me and prayed FOR ME. At school, I came back to my classroom to a letter from one of the girls from the youth group that talked about the ways in which she was praying for me.

I cried because here I was thinking that I needed to be strong for these girls, but the Lord is helping me heal by providing me strong girls too.

I’m learning that when we choose to be obedient God uses that to answer our prayers. He calls us out of comfort to perform His will, but He gives us the chance to respond in obedience first.

 

Praise: Five Minute Friday

I’m joining “my people” from Five Minute Friday today and responding to our prompt: Praise.

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One of the most difficult months in my life was September.

I felt the arrows of the enemy piercing me around every turn. Bad news surrounded me and my anxiety levels returned to a scary-high level. I was worn out, scared, and overwhelmed.

But as I turned the page to October I decided to focus on the positive things in my life. Instead of expecting the worse-case-scenarios I began expecting good. Instead of cowering in fear I embraced change. Instead of making excuses not to spend time with Lord I decided to praise Him.

After all, He has given me so much to praise Him for.

Whenever I feel the wave of anxiety course through my body I’ve tried to list 5 things for which I am thankful and that has really changed my perspective. This simple exercise has helped me to combat fear in a logical way.

Today I am praising God for:

1. My beautiful family

2. Some exciting news in my family that I’m sure I’ll be sharing soon (no, I’m not pregnant!)

3. My job where I am able to make a difference EVERY DAY

4. My church family who love and support my whole family

5. My friends who let me vent when I can’t carry my burdens on my own and who love me despite my flaws

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Share: Five Minute Friday

As I stand toe-to-toe with the weekend I am excited to finally have some time to rest. I’m looking forward to staying home, tidying the house, catching up with family, and going to church. But for the next five minutes I’m focusing on one little word. I’m joining the Five Minute Friday crew and this week our prompt is Share.

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My six year old daughter loves AWANA.

Every week she dons her bright red vest, recites her Bible verse, and heads off to join her friends at church. In the past year she’s learned so much. She’s memorizing scripture, applying it to her life, praying everyday, and talking to her friends at school about Jesus.

For over a year she’s been seeking Jesus regularly. She knows more than I ever did at her age and I’ve known for a while that she’s going to do BIG things in the name of the Lord.

But this week as we sat down to go over her verse like we always do she came with a questioning heart.

Acts 16:31– “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

What does it mean to be saved? What are we saved from? How do we become saved?

These questions all came right after her recitation. They had been sitting on her heart for days begging to be asked. And it was on Wednesday night that I got to talk through these things with my daughter. I shared the message of salvation with her. It was beautiful, yet simple conversation. And I sensed these things she’s been learning in her head transfer to heart knowledge. Knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus are two different things. That night, I saw that connection being made.

After our conversation she asked me if it was okay to pray and ask Jesus into her heart because she believed and wanted to be saved. With tears in my eyes I listened as my six year old girl prayed to God and in the most natural way asked Jesus to live in her heart and make her into a Child of God.

I wanted to share this with all of you. First of all because I am so proud of my beautiful daughter and the decision she has made to follow Jesus, but also because she asked me to share it with you.

When I dropped her off at AWANA she was bounding with joy. She couldn’t wait to tell the world.

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The Ameri Brit Mom