Everyone Else’s Highlight Reel

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Facebook reminds me a lot of the church.

Facebook has proven to be a wonderful tool to connect me with new and old friends, share encouragement and opportunity, and figuratively speaking, live life together. While Facebook is great at providing a connection with others, the screen that separates us does limit our awareness and perception into each others lives.

The church is a place where we connect as well. It is a place we share and learn ideas, a place we grow, a place where we gather and celebrate. The church is a place where you can find real transformed lives as well as new and old friendships. There are times though, that I feel the same disconnection in the church as I do on Facebook.

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I often see perfectly well-behaved children, magazine-worthy homes, picture-perfect family vacations, and thriving marriages. It is rare to scroll through and see mountains of dirty laundry, misbehaving children, family vacations gone wrong or an argument between spouses.

It is unfortunate that this same portrayal of perfection often leaks into the church. After all these years, I see people who still try their best to live their lives like they have it all together, only allowing people to see the parts of their lives that illuminate the idea of perfection. It’s both unhealthy and unrealistic.

From the outside looking in, both on Facebook and in the church people appear to be in essence; perfect. And, if you are totally honest, you probably find yourself feeling a little insecure in light of all that…perfection. Right?

Me too.

“This is one of the main reasons we struggle with insecurity: we’re comparing our behind-the-scenes with everybody else’s highlight reel.” — Steven Furtick, Crash the Chatterbox

It is up to us—we have to guard our heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Too often we ‘take the bait’ and believe in these illusions of perfection and then fall prey to the shadow of insecurity. Comparison has become a sport— a game to be played with obvious winners and losers. The truth is, no one is perfect so participating in this sport will always leave you feeling defeated and unworthy.

I think a step in the right direction is to first acknowledge that we are all sinners and all fall short (Romans 3:23). Reminding ourselves of this will substantially change our attitude when scrolling past those perfect illusions and instead, propel our hearts toward an attitude of love for others and gratitude for our own blessings.

Party of One

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Have you ever met someone that is just truly never satisfied?! They throw ‘pity parties’ for themselves because this or that did not go the way they wanted it to….They wallow in self-pity when they don’t own the newest trend; act jealously if someone else has something that they’d like to have; and or withdraws when something really good happens to someone else?

Maybe this person is you?

Two important biblical truths come to mind when I meet or know a person like I’ve described above:

1) “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

If you are always on the receiving end of things….you are not doing what The Lord asks of you. You do not have to have everything or have bags of money laying around to be able to help someone else. Helping someone else could be as simple as sending an encouraging word, making a meal and bringing it to their home during a difficult time, or, just lending a listening ear when someone needs a friend.

2) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I get it, friends, sometimes you just want to wallow. May I make a suggestion….? Don’t. It’s not healthy. No matter HOW bad your circumstances are, there are still SO many reasons to give thanks. The Lord is so good to us. It’s time to praise Him in all things, for His goodness to us.

Self pity is the act of dwelling on the misfortune of your own circumstances, rather than depending on God to meet your needs and desires His way.

If you only occupy yourself with pity; such will be your reward.

Dear Heavenly Father! Sorry for all the times we’ve wasted on our own pity parties. We know that acting in such a way distracts us from the fullness of life that You have so generously given to us. Forgive us, Jesus. We desire to give thanks in all things; in all circumstances. Please bless my sisters; in Jesus name, amen.

 

Fashioned for a Sacred Calling

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. (Psalm 139:13-16)

I believe I’ve had many callings in my thirty years on this earth. Some of the callings have just been for a season, while others will last until I breathe my last breath. One of the callings that God has drawn me to in this season of my life; is being a wife.

Sounds cliché, I know, but it’s the truth.

I met Nathan when I was just 18 years old. I had one other short relationship with a guy I quickly discerned I had no future with; so I ended the relationship. My relationship with Nathan however began much differently; we were friends first. As our friendship grew, so did our love for one another- and so goes our story.

Almost as quickly as I agreed to date Nathan, I knew he’d be the man I would one day marry. The Lord worked hard and fast on our hearts to bring us to the conclusion that we would begin a life of ministry together; as a married couple. We said ‘I do’ a couple months after my 20th birthday and began full-time ministry a few weeks after that.

My calling, however, is not limited to ministry for those in attendance at our local church, or in our community. My ministry begins at home; as a wife. I believe I have been fashioned for this sacred calling; being a wife.

There are many things that make up my ministry or calling as Nathan’s wife, but three stand out amongst all the rest.

1) To respect him.
….and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)

2) To be his helper.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

3) To love him.
….love their husbands…. (Titus 2:4)

You see, sisters, being a wife to Nathan is most definitely a sacred calling. The Lord joined us together because as a team we are so much better than we are individually. As I voluntarily respect, help, love and honour him, I am helping him fulfill his responsibilities, and I am helping him become the man, the husband, and the leader God intended him to be.

Are you fashioned for a sacred calling? What does that look like for you?

Do THIS Often for One Another…

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.” (James‬ ‭5‬:‭16-17)

During our thirteen years of marriage, my husband have been through some pretty rough waters.

I specifically remember when I was pregnant with our daughter. My soul was stirred often to pray for her safety….I would share this with my husband and he would usually take the lead and pray.

There was nothing about my pregnancy that gave us reason to believe we were in for a rough journey ahead. My pregnancy was textbook; until I woke up the morning I entered 32 weeks gestation, delivering her just a few short hours later, prematurely. The days that followed were exhausting and scary. However, God had prepared our hearts, He urged us to pray; and we now have a beautiful miracle named Sophia to remind us of those times we spent seeking The Lord for her safety.

There are many more moments we can recount, where we sought the Lord together. Many times when I felt too weak to call out, and my husband took the lead. Others, when my husband would ask me to intercede on his behalf. There’s something incredibly intimate about seeking The Lord together.

I love the scripture from James 5:16-17: “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.”

Sometimes, in ministry especially, there are few people I feel I can really trust. My husband, however, has been proven to be a real pillar of strength when life seems overwhelming. Holding his hand and praying together is not only comforting, but it also makes our relationship stronger. I count it my privilege to intercede on his behalf as well, it’s something I don’t take lightly.

Can your spouse count on you to lift up his/her needs if they ask? If this is something difficult for you both, plan a time to discuss solutions in making it easier.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the beautiful treasure of marriage. Jesus, I ask that You will constantly remind us to share with our spouse our prayer requests, and spend precious moments in prayer for them daily! Let us take these requests seriously, and count it as a blessing and a privilege to lift our spouse up to You. In Jesus name, amen.

Senseless Expectations

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

I have been married for over thirteen years and in my marriage experience I can honestly say I have learned that two ARE better than one.

I love my husband….but I will admit that I sometimes shift him into the place in my heart where only God belongs. I sometimes expect him to know what I am thinking. I sometimes expect him to say or do something that will bring me peace or make me feel better about a situation. When I am feeling lonely, I sometimes even think that if he was with me….things would be so much better.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I forget that the God that I serve is the omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (he’s everywhere), Prince of Peace!!!

While my husband is amazing, I need not expect him to be the things that only God is. Furthermore, when I am waiting in expectation for my husband to be these things, I am taking away the opportunity from God to move in my life and truly be my all in all.

Sometimes I make this shift in priority without even realizing it. But, the enemy would like nothing better than to sneak in when (and where) we least expect it and swipe the carpet right out from under our feet. Guard you heart, sisters.

What other things do you crave more than God?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ …But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31,33)

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of marriage. Please keep me mindful of when I start to shift my marriage ahead of You. You designed and created marriage; and it is good. But Jesus, please help me to keep balance. For my sisters out there who are struggling with craving things more than You….please be with them. Shine light onto the areas that they need to pull into balance and claim the spot in their heart that is Yours. We desire to seek you first, Jesus. Thank You for all that You will, and all that You are doing. In Jesus name, amen.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Secondhand Faith

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost. (Proverbs 22:6)

I saw a quote this morning by Joyce Meyer that really spoke to me:

“You can’t get buy on secondhand faith. It doesn’t matter what your Mama believes. You have to find out what YOU believe.” -JM

It’s true that I am praying my guts out that my kids grow up to believe in Jesus Christ like my husband and I do. It is also true that they have the choice to believe in whatever they want.

I believe it takes so much more than words to leave an eternal impression on our children. We need to be living examples of God’s truth and love. We need to pray without ceasing for their salvation. We need to share with them the wonder of the miracles that God does in our lives; both big and small.

I was raised in a bible-believing, faith-based home but I made my own decision to serve Christ at the age of thirteen. I was surrounded by generations of family that simply lived their faith in Christ out loud every day. Their faith stirred up a craving for a relationship with God – a relationship of my own.

This is what I so hope to be for my children; a living, breathing example of faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t simply want to pass down my faith to my kids. I want to live in such a way that my children are inspired to embrace an authentic journey of faith of their own.

God gives us lots of opportunities to share in his realness and goodness. Will you embrace these opportunities?

Jesus, thank You for my precious children. I pray for their hearts, that they would seek You with all of their might. That they would turn to You at all times. That they would live in Your truths and share those truths with their children, and their children’s children. Jesus, I pray for my friends with young kids- please give them wisdom as they raise their children to serve You. I also pray for my friends with older children who are running from You……Jesus, I pray that You will give them peace and perseverance to continue living an example of truth. I pray for those kids who are running, please help them to see the truth and turn back to You. I pray these things in Your holy name, Jesus, Amen.

A Pile of Dirt

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Imagine a beautiful garden.

In my minds eye I picture a beautiful cream coloured cement deck overlooking a large body of water that spans as far as the eyes can see. All around me are beautiful bunches of luscious red and pink roses. The sun warms my face as a soft breeze wisps my hair around ever so gently. I almost need to squint when I look out at the water because the sun bounces off so radiantly. It’s beauty at its finest.

Out of the corner of my eye I notice a flower garden with a vacant spot. A space that is void of the beautiful roses I see all around me…..a space that is just soil. It almost seems to be out of place; a distraction from the magnificence of its surroundings.

Do you ever feel like that pile of dirt? All around you are beautiful roses (successful business women, really awesome ‘got-it-all-together’ moms, amazing wives) and you just feel like the dirt…. Like you never could compare to their greatness? You feel like you give your roles as wife, mom, friend, etc your best and you still feel like everyone else is ahead.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

Sometimes our God sets us on a journey of growth. That doesn’t mean that we are destined to be dirt until the end of eternity; it just means that this season is for growing. Sometimes situations we face make us feel like we are buried underneath the dirt…..but I believe that If we give God the reigns He will give us deep roots in Him, and in His timing we will see the beauty of the harvest.

Sister, don’t waste your time looking at this one or that one, comparing your lack-of to her abundance. Look up, thank God for the very place He has you and let Him rain down on you, filling up your soul with His love and beauty.

Don’t worry about how long it will take to get to the harvest, instead enjoy all he has for you during this time of growth.

 

Six Ways To Encourage Your Husband

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-12

I forget sometimes, just how important it is to encourage my husband.

I too often take for granted his need for affirmation and assume he knows my heart. I remember back to moments full of gratitude and joy when my husband affirmed me, and feeling hypocritical for the times my expectations for such praise were unmet and I was anything but kind.

How can we do a better job of encouraging our husbands, friends?! I have come up with a list of six suggestions on how to do just that:

1) Affirm him.
Tell him just how much you appreciate his hard work for your family. Compliment his looks publicly and privately. Tell him often the things that you appreciate and love about him.

2) Appreciate him.
Thank him often for helping you, for sharing life with you; for loving you.

3) Ask him.
Ask for his advice and for his wisdom. I think its easy to assume that you “know” what your husband will say or what advice he will give, but “ask him” anyway. You might get the response you were thinking, but you might just be surprised by his answer instead. I’ll bet either way, he will be encouraged that you asked.

4) Admire him.
Appreciate his leadership over your home and your family. Stray from the desire to solve every problem yourself and respectfully follow the guidance and decisions that your husband suggests.

5) Assist him.
Ask him often how best you can help him. Is there something a little extra that you may do to share his load and lessen his burdens?

6) Always pray for him.
Always pray for him. Ask if there are any specific things he needs prayer for, and if not, pray peace and joy over his life everyday!

Father God, thank You for my husband. Thank You for the fun times we share, for the love that grows daily and for the romance you’ve ignited between us. Please, constantly show me as his wife how to best cultivate and grow my relationship. Please remind me everyday of ways that I can best bring encouragement to him. I ask all these things in your precious name, Jesus, amen.

Chapter ELEVEN: Gotta Have The Last Word

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” — Psalm 139:4

My two oldest children are often found in a debate of some kind or another. You know, who was last getting out of the van and left the side door wide open, draining the battery? Or who cheated when playing monopoly? Or who spit a large piece of unused toothpaste into the sink and left it there for our maid? (We don’t really have a maid, but I am seriously starting to wonder if the rest of my family thinks that we do!) Nevertheless, there is usually an argument or two a day that ensues at some point between the two of them.

By the time these arguments reach my ears they are usually being explained at decibels only dogs (and Mom’s) can hear. I usually try to talk them down off the ledge by giving them the opportunity to share their side of the story —with one stipulation: they must also hear their siblings side of the story without commenting even one word during their turn. If they fail to obey this rule, a consequence follows.

One of said kids (no names, of course) has a fairly difficult time with this rule. He usually comments over or cuts into the story when being told through his sisters eyes. Recently, when going through this very routine regarding a monopoly mishap, my boy decided to practice ‘keeping it shut’ while his sister shared her story. He didn’t at any point cut her off, or talk over her, or share his perspective during her story. He simply listened. I praised him for this noted change afterward and he shared that it was actually a lot more fun to listen instead of his usual behaviour.

When we talk much, we miss much.

That seems like a ridiculously simple statement but it is oftentimes forgotten. When we are always doing the talking we miss incredible opportunities to hear what is on a friend’s heart. We miss opportunities to give space to a friend as they muster the courage to ask for or extend forgiveness. We miss out on opportunities to hear parts of a situation that have been missed; a part that perhaps makes all the difference in how you view that situation entirely. The bottom line; when we talk much, we miss much.

The people you want to listen to most are usually the people who have the least to say.

Proverbs 10:19 —The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.

Week FOUR: Love Prompts

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Here we are in the LAST week of our Online Book Study — week four! I can hardly believe we are already wrapping things up here on the blog. This week we will take a closer look at chapters eleven and twelve and unpack some of our favourite concepts from both of these chapters. Next week, we will be back to our regular writing team — with a couple of brand new writers joining us. We hope you’ll stick with us.

If you flip to page 172 in your book you will see a box containing several Love Prompts. Karen starts off by saying this: “Got a minute? Grab a pen! Use any of these prompts to get you started on jotting a note, an e-mail, or a text to a loved one in your life. For some, the statement stands alone. For others, elaborate on the thought that is given. Your words are sure to bless your recipient.”

I LOVE these!!! In fact, I am going to choose one statement from each and share them with you to help you get started on your own. There are four sections with four types of people in whom to send some love. Your spouse, your child(ren), your parent, and your friend. I will include mine below.

To Nathan:
Here is what I appreciate most about you…you are generous and trust God without wavering to provide for our family. You have inspired me so much to give more and to be more generous with our resources. Your kind and generous heart is one of my favourite things about you and I am proud to be your wife.

To my children:
Being your mom has taught me…how precious life is. Having you is like wearing my heart pinned to my shirt. From bumps and bruises, casts and stitches, incubators and ventilators— you all have had one scary situation or another happen to you. I have learned during these times that I cannot make the pain or hurt go away, but I can, I have, and I will most certainly always be able to pray for you. The Lord has given each of you precious life, and I trust Him with your every breath.

To my parents:
I’m not sure if I ever told you before but thank you for…loving me. I never ever doubted that you did for a single moment of my life. You have always been for me, supported me and loved me unconditionally. I think that is the very best thing that a mom and dad can do for their child; love them. Thank you for loving me so well.

To Cindy:
You remind me of Jesus when…. I am discouraged, hurt or struggling. You not only pray without any need for details but you do not allow me to stay in those unhealthy places. You are always encouraging forward momentum and a spiritually healthy life. You truly exemplify ‘iron sharpening iron’ as the scriptures instruct and I am so thankful for you and our friendship.

Please check out those love prompts on page 172 and love on your people. Words are such a huge blessing to me personally so I get excited about the potential here to bless others in a big way.

Let’s chat:
1. Have you ever been sent a text, e-mail or Facebook message from a friend/spouse/child/parent that filled you right up with blessing? How did it make you feel?
2. Who do you plan to bless with your words today?