Giving Thanks For Hard Days

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

2 Chronicles 15:7 says “But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”

Rewinding life about ten years ago, I vividly remember the feeling I had after my firstborn and I were settled into our hospital room together. Labor and delivery now behind me, nurses reassigned to new labouring moms, husband sleeping soundly in the cot beside me, my sweet friend home to catch up on the nights sleep she sacrificed to help me as I laboured—and I remember wondering if I could ever fall asleep again because life was just too good to miss.

As I stared into the bluer-than-blue eyes of my precious newborn baby boy, I was ever-aware that God had everything to do with this dream come true.

I was finally a mom.

1 Samuel 1:27 says “I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request.

God answered our prayer, and gave us a beautiful family. I have many more moments like this one in my memory bank to pull out when those less-than-amazing moments arise. And they do.

There have been many moments as a mom that I wish I could go back and do differently. Pages from my mom story that I wish I could re-write. Moments that I wish I could erase, while other moments I wish I could bottle up and re-live as often as I would like.

The older my children get, the harder this mom-job gets. It is in those less-than-amazing moments, when I am elbow deep in the grit of loving and disciplining, that I desperately grasp that very first moment when I was ever-aware of the Lord’s blessing me with these miracle lives. I choose to allow the blessing of the job to outweigh the stress of it, and I press onward, holding onto the promise found in 2 Chronicles 15:7.

Are you struggling with a lack of gratefulness for a known blessing, my friend? Let’s “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Keeping Boundaries

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IMG_0386Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

God created Adam and Eve and gave them endless blessings; however He did ask them to refrain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

He gave them one boundary.

The enemy found Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and convinced them that the boundary God put in place was not for their own good, rather to keep them from something better. “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.” (Genesis 3:6)

The enemy can be mighty crafty, don’t you find? We, as human beings, tend to have difficulty with boundaries and the enemy will do everything in his limited power to convince us that boundaries are not necessary.

Even when we know that they are.

What do boundaries look like? To name a few: 1) Sticking to a budget and not letting your expenses exceed your income. 2) Eating to satisfy your hunger, not overindulging or eating emotionally. 3) Keeping your mind, eyes, and body in your marriage relationship, and not seeking outside your spouse for intimacy or pleasure.

In our ministry journey, my husband and I find that those are the top boundaries that the enemy will attack. We have chatted with lots of people who fall into one of those three boundary struggles. I am certain there are others as well, the enemy is relentless….but the good news is we all have victory in Jesus.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

Do you have trouble with keeping boundaries? Here is what the bible says:

Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17)

We have everything we need in Jesus to hold true to our boundaries. Claim that victory, sisters, and walk in His freedom today.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the victory we have in You. Thank you for Your mercy and grace. Thank You that we have everything we need for the battle that rages against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world. I pray, Jesus, for wisdom and a sound mind when keeping healthy boundaries in place. I pray also for my sisters who struggle with boundaries, please grant them peace and hope for victorious days ahead. I pray all these things in Your precious and holy name, Jesus, amen.

This Is Me

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“That’s why I refuse to believe that there are ‘special people’ in this world. I think that everybody has special value. Our problem is that we don’t have enough time to find out what is too often hidden.” —Carl Lentz, Own The Moment, pg. 74

What top three words would you use to describe how YOU see YOURSELF?

When asking myself this question, I have come up with a few sets of answers that are dependant on which perspective I am looking through. If I am considering how I would describe myself through the lens of Jesus Christ, I may use words such as: loved, forgiven, and free. When looking at myself through the bare eyes of my own heart, my answers are much different.

When we accept Jesus as our personal saviour He hands us the most precious gift: a pair of corrective lenses. These lenses give us the ability to see us as He sees us. The unfortunate part is that the majority of us don’t use these lenses at all. We have full access to them, but we choose to keep looking through the blind eyes we were born with.

Of the twenty people I invited to take my survey, the following are their responses.

Failure, organized, caring, optimist, nice, short, strong, caring, peaceful, strong, beautiful, spiritual, dedicated, loving, uncertain, thoughtful, generous, compassionate, struggling, trying, confused, brave, strong, fun, encourager, Jesus-follower, servant, confident, dependable, honest, redeemed, loved, valued, strong-willed, determined, broken, passionate, busy, loving, compassionate, loyal, independent, christian, father, grandfather, courteous, impulsive, busy, head-strong, traditional, reserved, overweight, shy, unfashionable.

As you can see I have bolded three of the fifty-seven words that came in. Of the twenty people surveyed, only ONE person responded with words intentionally describing who they are through the lens of Jesus Christ. (My personal answers: creative, insecure, trustworthy). For the most part the words my friends used to describe themselves are great words. There is nothing wrong with being generous, loving, loyal or caring—those are all really great things. However, if the words we choose to BEST describe who we are are not viewed through those corrective lenses…then we will offer nothing more than who we were before Christ to our lives and the people around us. It is important to know who we are in Christ and then live that way.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” —1 Peter 2:9

Some of my very favourite Christian heroes are those who are confident in who they are in Christ. These people believe that because of Christ, above all else, they are redeemed, forgiven, loved, valued and free. They live their lives this way…knowing that along the way their imperfect human nature will cause them to stumble sometimes—but their stumbling will not define who they are. Their position in Christ remains the source of their identity. They have found the gold, they have uncovered what so many of us keep hidden. Their example pushes me to want a better way of thinking for myself…and it makes me want to be that same example for those people in my life.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” —Romans 15:7

Let’s work on living our lives they way Jesus intended.

Move Over, Mrs Jones

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; (1 Timothy 4:4)

When my husband Nathan and I got married I truly believed that if I kept our home clean, cooked him delicious home-cooked meals every night and kept his dress shirts pressed, that those tasks would make me a good wife. While cleaning was never an issue, I truly struggled with the cooking. I burned e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g; even water. Haha. My good intentions often ended in a billow of smoke with a blackened pot as my constellation prize. Failure to excel at these expectations of myself really did a work on my self-confidence.

You see, this failure to meet my own expectations had me doubting I was a good enough wife for Nathan. I grew up with a mom that made cooking delicious meals look SO easy, she served my father very well. Now, here I was, completely insufficient to serve my husband in the same way. There was a period of time in our marriage that was pretty rough because I doubted my ability to be good enough for Nathan and feared he would leave as a result of these insufficiencies.

Over the years I have learned two very powerful truths:

1) Comparing my abilities and/or inabilities to others is not healthy. The only thing I gain from doing this is more insecurities.

2) My worth is not measured by my husband, it is measured by my Heavenly Father. I could do all the dishes on the planet, iron every fibre of linen that was ever spun into existence and cook better than Rachael Ray….but if I do not live a life devoted to loving like Christ first loved me, I have nothing.

So….it is no longer what tasks I can master that makes me good enough for my husband; it’s my willingness to love him like Jesus. And, because of Jesus and His love for me, I am good enough.

Sister, YOU are good enough. Don’t waste hours of precious time to pour out love on your spouse by trying to keep up with Mrs. Jones! Just love like Jesus loves. Be His hands and feet extended. Sacrificially, genuinely, passionately, wholeheartedly, and unconditionally.

My Verdict: Not Guilty

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

We all have a list a mile long of sins we have committed within our lifetime. The fact that we are sinners is a pretty widely accepted truth in the realms of the Christian Faith. Despite this accepted truth, I have recently begun to notice two trends in our culture today:

1. Christians are very good at believing that “others” are free from the burdens of their sins, yet few are able to completely grasp this concept for themselves.

2. Christians are often quick to pin-point “others” sin, before they acknowledge or resolve their “own” sin.

Looking deeper at these two trends I notice a commonality that both surprised me and stirred a passion within my heart. The commonality is this: As Christians, we know we sin…yet, despite the Scriptural truth of freedom in Christ and His gift of grace…we continue to walk in our shame.

The passion that stirred in my heart is fueled by Scriptures that speak against the lie that we are “not worthy” of God’s grace.

Friends, if we do not believe that God Himself deemed us worthy of His forgiveness and grace – we we holding ourselves back from fulfilling the dream that He has placed on our lives.

A dream? Yes, God designed each of us with giftings, callings, talents and a dream that is unique to us an individual.

In order to maximize our potential in fulfilling this God-dream we must first simply believe that we are “not guilty.”

Not Guilty.

Here are some Scriptures that you can tuck away into your heart when you need a reminder that because of Jesus’ sacrifice we are “not guilty”:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭23-24 ESV)

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭4 MSG)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (‭John‬ ‭5‬:‭24‬ ESV)

Friends, not only are we “not guilty”; we are chosen, the focus of His love and an heir to the incredible gift of eternal life! We have every reason to walk boldly and confidently in our dreams, y’all. May I encourage you to take a few moments today to thank Jesus for His amazing sacrifice and then allow the very truth that because of such a sacrifice our verdict is “not guilty” to permeate your heart.

When those moments are up, stand firm on your feet and endeavor to take every step from here on out confidently and in pursuit of the dream God has designed specifically for YOU.

*****

“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” (‭Hebrews‬ ‭10‬:‭22-25‬ MSG)

Mirror, Mirror On My Heart

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Confidence has never been my strong suit.

I had a conversation with a friend a few years back where I shared the reality of my struggle with self-confidence.

I wish I could tell you that this open and vulnerable discussion with a trusted friend initiated a process of healing and that I am now overflowing in confidence. But, that would be a lie.

You see, even a couple of years after that conversation with my friend, the struggle is more real than ever before. When I look in the mirror and ask myself “mirror, mirror on the wall”…this is what I see:

— A woman who often feels like her age far surpasses her achievements and success.

— A woman who often struggles with this mothering thing and her lack of a pinterest-y perfect life for her beautiful family.

— A woman who regrets each time she fails and gives into the chaos of a moment and…yells in frustration at her husband or children.

— A woman who reacts to an offence in a way that is not loving and forgiving.

— A woman who did not finish university because of her fear of failure.

— A woman who is desperately disappointed with the way she looks and merits a few dozen extra pounds as a perfectly good reason to lose worth in the eyes if herself and others.

Despite how completely depleted of confidence I might feel on any given day, this truth remains: God made me who I am—every single detail—and it grieves God when I stand in front of the mirror berating the very person He created me to be.

Instead of, “mirror, mirror on the wall…,” I believe a better question to ask might be, “mirror, mirror, on my heart….” And, when asking myself this important question, I must be prepared to answer in the way that the mirror reflects the love of Jesus that pumps through my veins. It is ONLY because of God and His grace, mercy, and love that I am who I am. Without Him, my life would be but a vapour, enduring an eternity in Hell.

That perspective sort of brings you to your knees with overwhelming gratitude, does it not?

Psalm 139:13-16

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 marvellously 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.

All glory be to God. For His works are made well. Believe it, friend. God made me, and He made you—and we are both made in His image. We are marvellously made indeed.

In God We….Trust?!

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Recently, I was thinking about something that I have been praying about for quite a while and was having difficulty understanding why it was taking God so long to at least acknowledge that He heard my request…

Why do we find it so difficult to trust God?

This morning, I stepped into the shower without fear. I believed that the water would be both clean and warm. I never worried that the water was contaminated, never worried that the water would cause me disease or physical harm, and never worried that the temperature would be so hot that it would scald or burn my skin. I simply trusted that the water would serve its purpose and warmly cleanse my body— as it does every day.

When I jumped into my minivan to travel to the cafe where I am writing these thoughts, I did not even think twice about whether the tires supporting the van would safely get me here. I simply trusted they would fulfill their purpose and keep me safe— as they always have.

A few years ago we learned my youngest son is very allergic to peanuts. While I diligently read every single food product label before giving him anything at all to eat, I can’t help but recognize the fact that I place a great deal of trust in the companies that manufacture those product labels. I trust that they are diligent in acknowledging every single ingredient that they include inside that packaging.

When I put money into the bank that I have chosen to service my accounts, I trust that the bank will keep it’s commitment to keep my money safe and sound until I chose to withdraw it or use it. The bank has never stolen any money from me, nor has it given me any reason not to trust it’s promises to remain morally upright. I simply trust them.

So, again, why is it so difficult to trust God?

My wise friend recently shared a very simple but incredibly true statement: Learning to trust God is a journey

Trusting God is not something that happens overnight. God is so very intentional with how He guides us and teaches us to trust Him. It doesn’t take me very long to think of the many ways in which God has proven His faithfulness and sovereignty in my life. Sometimes God has intervened in big, memorable ways— other times He has knocked on my heart in more subtle and quiet ways. But, the part to really make mention of, is the fact that I can not think of one single time that I have called on God and He has not answered. Sure, the answer might not have come as quickly as I wanted. And, sure, the answer may not have been exactly the solution I was seeking. But, God has always, always been faithful to answer me when I call on His name.

1 John 5:13-15 

My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening. And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.

It really boils down to you and me. Are we willing to make the choice to pursue a life devoted to trusting in God and His perfect ways— to acknowledge both the subtle answers to prayer, as well as the big, memorable ways in which God’s presence is made known in our lives? As we choose to find the unique ways in which God speaks to us, I believe we will truly embark on a trust in God that is so much more than intentional— but instinctive.

525,600 Minutes

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

A tribute to my husband, Nathan Hill, the amazing Daddy of our four treasures.

During the long, agonizing years we spent trying to conquer fertility issues, I often wondered what my husband would be like as a Daddy. I daydreamed about being pregnant and how he would be during the labor and delivery processes. Most of all, I wondered what he would do— how he would react, when the doctor placed a brand new baby into his arms for the very first time— our baby.

525,600 is the number of minutes that are in one year. As I mentioned above we had difficulty conceiving. It turns out our patience was tested and over two million minutes passed between the moment my hubby and I decided to start a family— and the moment that we held our firstborn in our arms. That is a lot of time when you are passionately waiting for something to happen.

I remember the day our son Ben entered the world, so vividly. Watching the nurse hand my husband our first little one, this little man that was a piece of each of us, was maybe the very best moment of my whole life.

Most certainly worth the long wait.

About six million minutes have passed since we began this journey called parenthood, and I can say without reservation that my husband has proven to be one of the best dads that I know. Not only does he care immeasurably for our four children, he loves them fiercely, and he extends more patience than most people are capable of.

My husband, my kids Daddy, embraces every moment he has with our children and makes every effort to be intentional with his time with them. Time is fleeting and is often the very thing we take most for granted.

A few years ago my husband purposed we set aside every Tuesday (for date night) and every Friday (for family night). Aside from the fact that he prioritized these weekly events in our budget, the greatest gift my husband has ever given myself or his children is the gift of his time. We never wonder about the next time we will get to spend with him because he is consistent and devoted to each one of us.

While so many of us are wishing time away in anticipation for something great to arrive or an event to take place, or while others are griping away that time stands still, I hope that you’ll be inspired by my husbands intentionality and simply enjoy every single minute that you have with your children. With your loved ones.

Time is truly an invaluable gift.

525,600 is the number of minutes that are in one year. How will you spend your minutes?

Hurts Hurt

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Relationships and hurt oftentimes go hand in hand, wouldn’t you agree? Relationships, while important and wonderful, carry with them the potential of causing us grief and pain at some point during their existence.  

We all know this to be true, however, the blessings we receive far surpass the risk we take when we choose with whom we invest our time and love. We simply can not allow the possibility of hurts to defer us from investing love into our relationships. Furthermore, we can not allow the potential of hurts or the memories from past hurts sour our spirit. Instead, let’s deal with our hurts head-on by recognizing some truths.

I believe it is safe to conclude that the hurt you experienced from that friend or family member would not be experienced had the same circumstances taken place by an acquaintance or stranger.

Think about that for a moment. Hurt is the result when an expectation you placed on someone you’ve invested both time and love in, is unmet. It could be as simple as the expectation to be kind and supportive, when instead your loved one met your need to be affirmed, with criticism and frankness. Something was said…or not said. Something was done….or not done. Whatever the case, you had an expectation that was not met and you walked away hurt because of it.

It’s so important to realize just how important our relationships are and be prepared to hear things that may hurt— but are speaking truth into our heart. Though hard words to hear, recognizing they are words that need to be said and appreciate that someone who loves us very much cares enough to speak them.

I believe it is safe to conclude that oftentimes our interpretation of a loved ones words or actions do not equal their realistic intentions. My husband and I often run into this dilemma. I have learned over our dozen + years of marriage that timing is terribly important! To exaggerate my point— if I ask my husband a question that requires thought and sensitivity while he is in the middle of processing the thoughts of a sermon, I should not be surprised when his response is quick and surface. Choosing to wait until he is better able to respond with a clear head and time to focus gives the expectation I have on my hubby’s response a more realistic platform. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Finally, I believe it is also safe to conclude…that God can be in the relationship to heal and restore brokennessNothing is impossible with God. (Matthew 19:26) You might be thinking that the hurt you have held onto so tightly, for so long, is unforgivable and impossible to forget. But, I want to remind you of the biblical truth that no hurt is too big for God to restore. No “I’m sorry” will be said without His comforting peace or blessing. Not one single “I forgive you” will He leave you on your own to speak. We must be prepared to say both “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” in every one of our relationships or they are doomed to fail. God is with us always and He is rooting for our reconciliation and restoration.

Nothing is impossible with God.

So friend, I urge you to take an inventory of those hurts you have stock-piled within the depths of your heart. Perhaps you have a few fresh wounds, or perhaps you’re nursing aging hurts that have caused bitterness towards others. Whatever the case, can we agree today that God desires for us, if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, to live at peace with everyone? (Romans 12:18)

So what now?

How can you pursue peace with everyone? Is there a conversation or two that you need to have with your people? Is there an apology or wrong that needs to be right, that you can care for? Ask God to reveal to you (if He hasn’t already) how you can pursue peace with all and then walk in boldness and confidence to achieve it.

Yes. Hurts hurt. But, Love is greater.

The Other Side Of Sorry…..

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Has your spouse ever made you really angry? Maybe he forgot to take out the trash for the third week in a row. Maybe he broke a promise to you that you were really counting on. Perhaps he made an important decision without conferring with you first. Perhaps the reason for your anger was pretty menial….but he caught you at a bad time.

Friend, I’d be lying if I said I never get angry with my husband. I do more often than I should. Sometimes I get really angry about really stupid things.

We all get angry. Sometimes we get angry for reasons that feel legit and justified. Other times our reasoning is slightly off kilter.

There are two things that God has been working on my heart about regarding forgiveness.

1. Ask for it.
When we react in anger foolishly it is our responsibility to ask for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If we simply ask for forgiveness, God will continue to be faithful in keeping no record of our wrongs and forgiving us of our sins. Forget your pride, friend. Asking for forgiveness is SO important.

2. The other side of sorry.
There is more than just that flood of satisfaction when someone who has treated you wrongly apologizes. We have just as much responsibility when someone asks for our forgiveness; we must actually forgive them. How often do we walk away from an apology with bitterness still enveloping our hearts? Our flesh is incapable of shrugging off hurt and bitter feelings. However, the Holy Spirit can and will help us with that as long as we ask Him to. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭32‬ NIV)

So friend, is there an area of your heart that God has given a little nudge after reading this post today? Do you need to improve on asking for forgiveness when you find yourself reacting in anger unnecessarily or does God desire you to improve on your ability to extend forgiveness? May I pray for you? “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (‭Mark‬ ‭11‬:‭25‬ NIV)

Father God, thank You so much for Your forgiveness and the healing, peace and joy that comes from the truth that You have indeed washed us white as snow. Jesus, I pray for my sisters who also struggle with asking for and extending forgiveness. I pray that Your Holy Spirit will encompass us with each opportunity that arises where we are able to utilize these powerful words: I am sorry or I forgive you. Bless each heart that reads this post today. In Jesus name, Amen.