Beloved, All Things Work Together For Good…

Friday Reflections

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Can sickness, death, homelessness, financial hardship, lost friendships, and traumatic experiences lead to anything good?

As I’m entering into my 5th day of juice fasting Romans 8:28 has come alive for me in a way I had not considered before.

Back in October after some troubling health news, I began to incorporate daily fresh vegetable juices into my diet at a whopping 80 to 100 ounces a day and 5 days ago I decided to consume only vegetable juice for as long as my body can tolerate it. I’m fasting mainly for health reasons but I am also using the time to pray more and hear from the Lord.

During my fast, I’ve had moments of wanting to give up, especially in the first three days. Having to cook meals for everyone including sweet treats has been hard. Working and dealing with the kid’s schooling has also been hard as I am low on energy. All in all, it has been quite the struggle but I know that what I’m enduring right now will only have a good impact on my overall health in the near future.

The idea of suffering in a small way during my fast made me realize that in God’s kingdom our spiritual lives are a bit like my fasting journey.

At times we face what seems like an unbeatable odd, a mountain too high to climb, a problem too big to fix and yet the Lord God Almighty whispers, “All things, yes all things work together for good.”

It is for his Glory that we are often thrown into the furnace so that in our obedience his name may be glorified. God desires that all of his children would learn to trust him even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it is hard and even when we see no end in sight. Because he is the master planner. He sees beyond the pain and frustration and when we seek his kingdom first, all things work together for good.

Although we cannot see through the stormy clouds we are enduring, although the sound of thunder seems threatening and never-ending, the Lord our God is seated above the clouds and he knows when the sun will shine again and when quiet streams will flow near barren valleys.

So let us take courage, for God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Mariana

Mama, Are You Struggling To Keep It All Together? Grab Some Coffee And Read This

Friday Reflections

For the mamas out there who are struggling to juggle all that life has so graciously placed on your lap, don’t lose your focus on Christ.

I can recall a time where my heart and mind were so overwhelmed I wished I was no longer alive. It was a dark and difficult time. As I’ve thought back to that experience I realized that during those months I had completely lost my focus on Christ, on what was most important.

My inability to handle my load of working full time, homeschooling full time, taking care of children and a sick husband while dealing with serious health issues myself, left me feeling defeated and depressed. I had so much to do and felt that if I could not accomplish all of it, I was a failure and wasn’t living up to Gods expectation of who I should be.

The enemy could not have crafted a better lie to keep me spiritually defeated and depressed.

Although my circumstances haven’t changed, if anything they have gotten harder, I can say that I’ve learned to see Christ as my anchor for all things, especially for those things that are burdensome and hard to carry.

I’ve learned and am still learning to trust who God is and believe that he will never leave me or forsake me.

I’ve learned not to pay too much attention to secular standards about how I should be living, homeschooling, dressing, keeping up my home and raising our children.

I’ve learned that I must renew my mind each and every day religiously, by prayer and by the reading of God’s word. Doing so allows me to filter out the junk and keep only what brings God glory.

I’ve learned and am still learning that even the slightest everyday worry puts me in a position of fear instead of a position of trust towards God.

I’ve learned that if we wholeheartedly seek first his kingdom, all the things we need to accomplish our everyday journey will be added unto us.

No matter where you are in your journey as a mom, whether its changing diapers or preparing your kids for college, know this:

The Lord God Almighty has ordained all of your steps according to his plan for your life.

All of the difficult moments and seemingly unbearable trials are simply preparing you to become more like his son Jesus Christ. All of the failures and struggles are part of the journey so embrace them. He is molding you into something beautiful.

One day you’ll be next to someone who is truly broken and suffering and you’ll know exactly how to minister to them and make room for the Holy Spirit to comfort and bind up their wounds.

One day your children will grow up and encounter suffering and you’ll know exactly how to guide them through and encourage them. You’ll be able to share the comfort and joy of the Lord in a tangible way.

Beloved the best thing you can do is to drop all of the things of the world that are burdening your heart and your mind. Drop them at the foot of the cross. Exchange them for Gods holiness, for a new mind, for strength, for direction, and for peace.

All that the world has to offer is just a counterfeit for what God offers us in his word. There is nothing that can satiate our craving for fulfillment and joy. Nothing but Jesus.

Trust Him, obey Him, seek him all throughout the day and you’ll begin to see a shift in what you think is important vs what God says is important.

Let him guide you through the mire and the muck, let him carry you for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

For more encouragement on this topic check out this post.

Mariana

Who Are We Devoted To? A Look Into How We Are Doing Things At Home

Friday Reflections

Who are we devoted to? Are we devoted to things and systems that oppose God?
Whose standards do we live by in our home?
Do we have high secular standards for our kids or high heavenly standards?
Do we pray about everything and seek Gods best plan for each and every area of our life?

Recently I was talking to someone about homeschooling. They said that I should meet a mother they know but they added that this mother had very high standards for her kids.
I asked the person what they meant by “high standards”.
“Do you mean that they invest thousands of dollars in expensive curriculum or do they work their kids for hours and hours a day to master pre-established academic goals? Do they have high spiritual standards?”
This conversation got me thinking.

So what exactly does having “high standards” mean?
What does it mean to the disciple of Christ specifically?

The first verse that comes to mind is in 1John chapter 2 verses 15-17:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

➡️Do not love the world…
➡️not in him
➡️the pride of life…
➡️is not from the father…
➡️the will of God…
➡️abides forever…

These snippets above jump out at me especially “the pride of life”.

The pride of life. Ah yes.
All the things we want and desire to have for personal gain and fulfillment.
Status, recognition, education, success, beautiful homes, enchanting gardens, fancy clothing, picture-perfect children, money etc. The things we pride ourselves upon.

But God’s standards are way higher, they are not of this world, they are not created in a university or in a laboratory.

His standards are simple and can be found countless times in his word. From the sermon on the mount to the apostolic exhortations throughout the new testament.

➡️We are called to NOT be conformed to the patterns of this world.

➡️We are called to NOT love what the world says we must love.

➡️We are called to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

➡️We are called to train up our children with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

➡️We are called to pray about everything and at all times.

➡️We are called to apply Gods standards to everything we do, not the world’s standards.

Within the chaotic movement and blinding noise of everyday life, we can lose perspective and begin to slip into worldly conformity.

Conforming to the world’s standards relinquishes the guiding of Gods Holy Spirit and puts us in danger of hearing “depart from me…I never knew you.”

➡️Remember that the son of man, Jesus Christ had nowhere to lay his head at night.

➡️Remember that many of his followers were uneducated men who did not even wash their hands before eating, who could not read or write. Most of them did not have a formal education but God used them in a profound way.

➡️Remember that Jesus turned away the wealthy man and praised the widow who in her poverty gave all that she had.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, please consider who’s standards you are following and why.
Please open up your bible to find out what God really expects of you.

And please don’t frown upon others who don’t meet worldly standards but are close to the heart of God.

In closing, I want to share a short story from a few years ago when I had the opportunity to work alongside a native South African missionary friend who ministers to orphans in East Africa.
I invited her out to eat lunch with several employees. She sat at the table and laughed while she ate. She chewed with her mouth open and savored everything even to the point of licking her fingers.
A few of the staff members commented afterward of her lack of manners and table etiquette.
I sat back and listened and I remember thinking to myself: “She is so precious in Gods eyes who cares how she eats.”
This woman missionary has endured several beatings, one that left her hospitalized for weeks yet she returned to her beloved orphanage and continues to work there until this day.
I believe she will be one of the great ones in Gods kingdom.

I can only hope and pray for Gods Spirit to lead and guide us every day so that we can bring him glory in the way we train up our children and in the way we honor and obey his holy word.

Set us apart Lord so that we may be acceptable in your eyes.
Mariana

No Stress Homeschooling – Thoughts On What I Have Learned & Free Resources

11107369_1411576342504043_7942726883185188231_nThis past year was insanely crazy. I mean with all the health issues going on, my fulltime job and 3 kids to educate, it was a busy year to say the least.
So this time around, I’m working on a no fuss homeschooling schedule. No fancy curriculums and no stressful books.
In spending about 10 hours researching, I’m amazed at everything available outside of expensive curriculums that can help kids learn. Last night after I finished researching and reading tons of articles online, I grabbed some mini dinosaurs I bought at a thrift store and in just 15 minutes I taught our preschooler some basic math skills. I had him write his answer on paper and that was it. That’s math class for him and it works great with his learning style and sensory needs.

He starts Kindergarten this year and we’ll be using a relaxed homeschooling approach with him since I noticed that he really dislikes doing worksheets for more than 5 minutes a day. So with him we’ll read books on each subject for 15 minutes a day and use thrift shop finds as visual aids in learning math, logic and science.
His entire homeschooling day will only take about an hour and a half and it’s something I can do on my lunch hour and in the evening after work, so that’s awesome.

When we started homeschooling last year we were sold into the idea that our kids had to follow an expensive, complicated and stressful curriculum. But it was not necessary and now I know that allowing them to grow in the areas they enjoy most makes more sense then forcing them to sit at a desk doing seatwork for 6 hours a day.  Although seatwork is important it should not be the only form of learning and it definitely should not be forced on small children as we were doing erroneously.

Biblically as I look at how Jesus taught his disciples and those around him I am convinced that traditional public school education is completely wrong and leaves many kids thinking they are dumb without maximizing their potential. When I look at Jesus I see a man who taught outdoors, who without having much had everything he needed even though he had no secure place to lay his head each night. When I think of who I want my kids to be like, I envision Jesus and his humility. His love for others, his simplicity and his amazing teaching style. I don’t want my kids to be like Steve Jobs or their favorite sports figure, I want them to be like Christ. To grow up and use their talents and strengths to impact the world for Gods glory.
Sadly, education today is seen and managed in a cookie cutter method. But unfortunately this method does not allow a child to grow, to question and to logically work through life’s ups and downs.

So for us, homeschooling this year will take on a whole new approach. It will be parent and student lead, relaxed yet enriched, full yet not stifling.
I am so blessed that the light bulb finally went off in my head and my “ah ha” arrived before we continued to damage our children’s educational process.

If you are on a home-schooling journey and you are wondering how it can be done, I invite you to check out these links below for some great articles on homeschooling methods, free curriculum, free worksheets and more.
May you be encouraged and inspired to make the best decision for your family.
God bless you!

(Pictured: our smallest child, happy to receive a beanie baby my aunt rewarded him with for sounding out new words.)
Below are some awesome links, I highly recommend you visit if you are wanting to homeschool or homeschooling already:

Teaching our children to write, read and spell

Links to educational sites, free homeschooling resources, fun interactive learning activities, information about homeschooling, and lots of other “homeschooling freebies!”

The best advice of seasoned homeschoolers and other educators

Considering Methods & Styles of Homeschooling

Free Complete Online Homeschool Curriculum List

Homeschooling High school

Preparing to Homeschool: Homeschooling Styles

Online Homeschooling via SchoolhouseTeachers.com

50 States Coloring Pages

KidZone Geography United States Printables

500 Free Printable Lunchbox Notes to use at the kitchen table or for a picnic in the park

Free Homeschool Geography Resources

Silence is the Secret

We all long to be closer to God. But that requires something simple and often overlooked—the willingness to be still.

by Drew Dyck, In Touch Ministries 

I recently attended a large conference for church and business leaders, featuring big names like Colin Powell, Jimmy Carter, Jack Welch, Tony Dungy, and Rick Warren. But one speaker listed on the program seemed out of place. She wasn’t a prominent politician, business tycoon, or megachurch pastor. Rather than a suit, she wore a simple white robe and headscarf. Known as “Mama Maggie,” she is a diminutive woman who works in the slums of Cairo, Egypt.

When she walked onstage, the crowd erupted. Visibly moved by the reception, she stopped midway to the podium, pressed her hands together and mouthed words that were lost amid the thunderous applause. Then she lowered her body to the floor and prayed for a moment before rising to speak.

Silence is the Secret

She was worth the attention. Mama Maggie has dedicated her life to serving homeless, starving children in Manshiyat Naser (or “Garbage City” as it’s known in Egypt). She founded an organization called Stephen’s Children to help the countless boys and girls who roam the trash heaps looking for scraps of food. Today, the organization has thousands of volunteers, scores of whom were helped by the charity as children.

Of the many things she shared with us that day, one has stuck with me. “Silence is the secret,” she said to the crowd. “Silence your heart to listen to your spirit. Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit. In silence, you leave the many to be with the One.”

That evening, I had the opportunity to interview her, and I was struck by the palpable humility and incredible gentleness of spirit she exuded. It was plain to see that everything about her grew out of a deep intimacy with God.

Quietness, both of mind and spirit, is essential for communing with the Almighty. “Be still,” the psalmist writes, “and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10 NIV). I think it’s important to note that the stillness precedes the knowing—not the other way around. Without first quieting our hearts (and minds and mouths), we’ll never realize the deep intimacy with God we so desperately crave.

Unfortunately, however, we are rarely silent. After a few seconds of quietness, we get fidgety. We start reaching for our gadgets or talking to avoid awkwardness and boredom. We can blame our technological devices or hectic work schedules or busy family lives, but the truth is, we avoid silence at all costs.

Silence is the Secret

A recent study conducted at the University of Virginia testifies to this sad truth. Researchers found that people preferred pain to being alone with their thoughts, even for a few minutes. Asked to sit in a room with no distractions for 15 minutes, participants were offered the option of giving themselves electric shocks. Around half of the people—all of whom had felt the painful jolt beforehand—chose to zap themselves just to break the monotony. (One participant opted for the shock 190 times.)

As Christians, we should find this aversion alarming, because being silent is essential for spiritual maturity. Quietness is to our souls what sleep is to our bodies: It helps us heal and gives us time to grow. Silence—that essential pause from the torrent of noise and busyness—enables us to hear our Creator and move closer to Christ. But finding this silence amid the cacophony of life can be difficult when a thousand things compete for our attention. Even when we get alone with God and try to quiet the buzz in our brains, the mental clutter of worries, fears, and unfinished tasks surges to the surface. It takes concerted effort to cultivate silence, especially in today’s world. But it’s a challenge we must accept. Our spiritual vitality is at stake.

And there’s more. Silence is something even greater than a tool to deepen our spiritual life; it’s the natural reaction of mortals to the presence of a holy God. In Scripture, when people encountered Him, they fell silent or spoke in hushed tones, fearful their sinful lips would incur divine judgment.

Take Isaiah, for instance. When he saw the Lord “high and exalted,” the only words he could manage were ones of despair: “Woe to me!” he cried, “I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5 NIV). Ezekiel, too, was overwhelmed by his vision of God. After seeing Him in His glory, the prophet said nothing; he could only fall face-first to the ground (Ezek. 1-3).

Another example is Daniel, who could stare down lions, but when the heavens opened before him, he “bowed with [his] face toward the ground and was speechless” (Dan. 10:15 NIV). Likewise, the revelations of heaven the apostle John received left him lying on the ground “as though dead” (Rev. 1:17 NIV). And though there is no shortage of dialogue in the book of Job, silence reigns when God shows up. “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?” Job says. “I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4 NIV).

Silence is the Secret

But their reactions are radically different from ours. Drop in on an average church service, and you’ll hear loud celebratory music sung by cheerful, upbeat worship teams. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. We need to be joyful. But there is little time spent standing in awe of God. Can we be shocked into silence by God’s unbridled majesty? Is it possible for us to stand in perfect stillness before His holiness? The answer to these questions is most definitely yes. Yes, we can.

But believe it or not, this isn’t a new issue. In the 17th century, a man named Isaac Watts complained about lackadaisical worship. He objected to “the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly.” His father challenged him to create hymns that would inspire more fervent worship. Watts did just that—and ended up writing some of the best-known songs of the English language, including “Joy to the World.” But it is the final stanza of “Eternal Power” that perfectly describes the worship that can come only with silence:

God is in heaven, and men below;
Be short our tunes, our words be few;
A solemn reverence checks our songs,
And praise sits silent on our tongues.

Watts understood something we would be wise to embrace—that worship sometimes demands wordlessness and that the purest praise often arises from hushed lips. Silence is an acknowledgment that we stand in the presence of a holy and remarkable God. It signals that we’re ready to listen, to receive, and to simply stand in awe of our Creator. It is when we intentionally close our mouths that we can experience a fuller measure of God’s greatness and grandeur.

 

Illustrations by Jeff Gregory

A Prayer for Weakness – Upon the Waters -& Amidst the Desert

Today I wanted to share a prayer I wrote for when I cannot see nor know what God is doing in my life. May you be blessed and your spirit made strong.

You called me out upon the waters…..to the great unknown.
You called me apart to the desert…….to experience the arid climate of the human soul.

You called me to set my feet firm on sinking grounds.
To look up to you,
to keep my eyes fixed on you
regardless of the ground beneath me.

My heart yearns for you so
and is so heavy that I cannot sing my worship to you
only pray silently, that your spirit would govern over all the unrest,
weakness, fear, and uncertainty that has woven webs around your servant.

Hear your servant oh Lord, Let your glory shine down from heaven.
That this broken vessel would be filled with your power and made whole in your sight.

“And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

You called me out upon the waters…..to the great unknown
Yes, you called me to wander in the desert,
to witness your great hand at work.

And although the heat may wither a thousand flowers
and there may be no water to drink
I know that I am safe
under the shadow of your wings.

Although I cannot sing, your praises are in my heart
although I cannot see what you are doing
I know your spirit goes before me

Hear your servant oh Lord,
let your glory shine down from heaven.

Amen
(©)

I Am Who I Am

He whispers this to us, time and time again.
His gentle spirit reminding us of who he is and who we are.

“I Am Who I Am”, says the lord of the universe because he is confident in his plans for us, for a broken humanity.

He is confident of his plans for the woman who cannot bear her burden after years of bleeding and no remedy. (Mark 5)
He is confident of his plans for the woman who with a bowed head approaches the well to hear all that she ever was or did. (John 4)
He is confident of his plans for his humble servants who endure trial after trial and are broken into pieces like a loaf of bread.

“I Am Who I Am” he says to us because he is absolutely sure of who he is and who we are in his sight.
In our sinful humanity we are feeble, weak, dirty and blemished.
In his holiness he is pure, just, loving and merciful.

We need to encounter him,
to be cleansed by him,
to be made strong in his presence so that we may endure the many trials that confront us daily.

I may never be able to rest in my daily circumstances or find peace in them but I can certainly rest in “I Am That I Am”.
Although a thousand may fall at my side, (Psalm 91)
although rumors of war may fill the air. (Matthew 24)
although financial crisis may strike,
although laughter may turn to mourning;

I can find solace and peace in “I Am That I Am”.

———————————-

Friends, let us rejoice in our present trials as the apostle Paul reminds us. Let us find comfort in knowing that those who walk through the valley of the shadow of death are not alone and once they leave the valley they are made stronger.
I believe that God uses greatly those who have been thrown into a fiery furnace and have endured countless tests and trials.
No gold is made pure without fire. Let us then be persistent and keep holding on to the Word of God and to our salvation with fear and trembling.

To him be the glory, honor and praise now and forevermore.
Mariana
“In spite of sorrow, loss, and pain, Our course be onward still”
Adoniram Judson