Take Courage!

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 nine and a half 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

Two Little Pink Lines

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Who knew two little pink lines could bring one so much happiness?! As I watched those two little pink lines grow clearer and clearer I was filled with an unforgettable happiness. Just a few years before that doctors were telling me I would never be able to have children of my own and yet, here I was, watching confirmation of a third pregnancy appear right before my eyes.

Nathan and I shared in the happiness as this was an answer to our prayers! After blood tests confirmed what those little pink lines already told us we visited the doctor and learned we were about ten weeks along! What a wonderful miracle!

The afternoon after our doctors appointment we baked a cake together and decorated it with fondant creations that resembled a pregnant belly, a bowl of ice cream, and a dill pickle along with the words “we’re expecting” written across its top. When our friends came for dinner that evening, we showed them the cake and they too shared in our happiness! Baby Hill number three would soon join our precious little tribe.

Just one week later experiencing the high of happiness this new pregnancy brought with it, we were experiencing the opposite— complete and absolute devastation. At eleven weeks gestation our precious little one was no more. Until these circumstances, I had no idea it was even possible to feel so many emotions at one time.

My husband and I came home from spending the night at the hospital and grieved. As I laid my head on my pillow I cried tears of sadness like I never had before.

A friend sent me a message that morning, not knowing anything of our situation, that included these verses from scripture: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” —Job 1:21; “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper, not to harm, plans to give you a bright hope for the future.” —Jeremiah 29:11

I couldn’t believe it as I read these words. Knowing the story of Job and all he endured, I knew the Lord was showing me that even through these unimaginable circumstances, He was the Hope I needed to put my complete trust in. He knew all the details, and my job was simply to continue lifting up and blessing His holy name!

I don’t know what circumstances you are facing today, but I do know that God knows all things and holds the knowledge of every detail of your future in His hands. Trust Him. Bless Him. And know your only hope comes from Him and Him alone.

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 occupy yourself with self-pity; such will be your reward.

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-four 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 my most sacred callings 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; specifically designed as a helpmate for Nathan.

There are many things that make up my ministry or calling as Nathan’s wife, but four 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)

4) To honour the leadership he provides for our marriage.
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18)

Being a wife to Nathan is a sacred calling. One I will treasure forever. The Lord joined us together because as a team we are so much better than we are individually. As I respect, help, love and honour his leadership, 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 do your calling or callings look like?

Father God, You are so gracious to bless us with the ability to love and be loved. Thank You that You first have come before us as an example of how we are to love unconditionally and sacrificially. Please guide us as wives to make decisions that honour You. Please help us to love in a way that fulfills our calling; to love our husbands so that we are helping him to become the man, husband and leader that You intend for him to be. Thank You, for all these things, amen.

 

Paving Hope Road

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

It was a rainy Tuesday evening. My hubby was working and I decided I would take a trip to the grocery story to pick up some groceries while he was gone- with our less-than-one-month-old baby boy.

Not my greatest choice.

As soon as I walked through the doors of the store my precious little one began to scream. Screams that communicated pain and discomfort. He shifted and wiggled in his carrier as he bellowed and my Mommy heart deflated quickly. Nothing I offered provided him any relief and before long I was nearly running through the aisles to get only the necessities on my long list, in order to promptly return to the comfort of our own home.

Once in the car the tears of defeat flowed freely. Why did I even bother?

As I started back home I recalled a lady who, just that previous Sunday, had offered a helping hand with the baby if I ever needed one. She encouraged me to just ask, that if she was able, she would love to help.

An answer to prayer, Renee came to our home that evening and held baby Ben while I unpacked my groceries. She never complained one time about me asking for help and before she left she encouraged me to ask her for help again! Her help that Tuesday evening brought incredible relief to my overwhelmed soul, but more than that, she became a trusted friend.

In the months and years that followed I learned Renee’s story. What I didn’t know that Tuesday night was that I would soon be entering a journey very similar to Renee’s. I learned so much from my conversations with her; her faith in God, and her ability to see His hope in all situations brought me hope.

When my daughter came along with a similar condition to Renee’s son, she offered genuine empathy. There were many- I mean many- who offered sympathy, but there is something precious about being encouraged by someone who truly knows how you feel. Renee did not always encourage me through her words, either. She also offered hope in the form of practical help; by lightening the load of our burdens which helped us focus on our priorities.

Your responses to your circumstances, both during those stormy seasons in life and after, is either paving hope road for someone who will cross your path in the future….or maybe you’re paving hope road for someone in your life right now. Will you choose to be a beacon of His light in all things (like my friend, Renee) or will you choose to drag your feet as you journey through those less-than-lovely circumstances?

The choice is yours.

Father God, thank You so much for sending people into our lives who shed light on Your hope simply in the way they walk through this life. You give bright hope for our futures and that is true even during our biggest moments of weakness and struggle. Thank You for never giving up on us, never leaving us, and never turning your back on us. Help us to live our lives, in all situations as a beacon of Your hope. We love You so much! Amen.

No One Is You-er Than You!

By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Can I share a confession of mine with you? I spend a lot of unnecessary time feeling inadequate! God has called me to do some very specific things in my lifetime; complete some very specific purposes. Sometimes He blesses me with the ability to ‘see’ the fruits of my labor; sometimes it’s not for me to see, just be a part.

It’s those times when I am ‘just a part’ that I begin to doubt myself. Did I really do all I could do? Should I have done more?! Should I have done less? What if I never know if what I’ve done was good enough?! I’m sure there was someone qualified to do a better job than me!

The bible says that each one of us is God’s handiwork. He made each of us individually, with intended purposes. He has prepared you in advance for each thing He will require you to do, along your journey here on this earth.

It is true you will begin to feel inadequate when you look around at others. I know this from experience. The most important thing to remember is that God has called YOU to be you. Looking around and trying to decide who might be better off doing what God has asked you to do is like you’re telling God He’s not good at being God. (Likewise, don’t look at something God has called someone else to, and think you’d be a better choice for their calling)

“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” –Dr. Seuss

Be the masterpiece that God created you to be and set your mind to do whatever it is He asks of you with excellence. Don’t try to be anyone else; just be you! Resist the temptation to feel inadequate by measuring your capabilities to someone else’s. And remember that if God asked you to do something for Him, it’s because he wants YOU to do it.

Jesus, thank You for making us who we are. I pray that we will learn to be comfortable and appreciate ourselves because it is You that has made us. I pray that You will create in us a confidence to be that person You’ve made us to be, so that we can fulfill your purposes. Help us to learn to not worry about whether we are qualified or not for what You are asking us to do; that’s for You to decide. Instead, I pray that we will simply say yes to Your assignments. I pray this in Your name, Jesus, Amen.

Too Busy To Connect

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” — Luke 10:38-42

I’ve noticed an ever-growing trend in our culture; the need to be busy, busy, busy.

Culture seems to insist that we need to have our days full; from the moment our eyes open, until we can resist closing them no longer. From a Mommy perspective, there’s school and volunteering at the school, play dates with our preschoolers, sports, clubs, lessons in this and that, church programs, and the many other things we stuff into our jam-packed schedules. Every single thing on our lists has a significant importance. Nothing ever gets cut. If anything, more gets added on.

Every morning I go through the same routine. My family and I enjoy breakfast together, my husband then ventures off to work and I clean up from said breakfast. My three school-age kids will, depending on weather, head to the bus or our van; my youngest kiddo toddling around behind me, content to wait until it gets to be his turn to get dressed for the day. I then call my grandmother- three hours away- and proceed to make all five of our beds and clean/tidy all three of our rooms, while chatting with her. Once kitchen and bedrooms are to my standard, it’s other things like writing, worship planning, blog administration, grocery shopping, cleaning and the like. Before I know it, we are all sitting down again, to have dinner.

I began to really think about these things. If someone drops into our home for a visit, why shouldn’t I be ready? What does it matter really, if the bedroom doors are closed and an unmade bed is on the other side of that door. Why should I deny a friend a morning to connect over a coffee if there are a few dishes in the sink? What’s wrong with taking a call from a friend while turning a blind eye to the chores on my list?

I find my schedule gets so filled with ‘stuff’ that I sometimes completely lose sight of the important things.

We are so busy trying to keep up with culture, that we have no time left to actually connect. We miss opportunities and divine appointments that truly matter, to keep up with the daily tasks that will soon be forgotten.

We become overwhelmed women, with underwhelmed souls. – Lysa TerKeurst, The Best Yes

What if we took a step back, and like Mary, put our priority on truly making an effort to connect with those precious people in our lives? So many of us are like Martha; too busy just trying to keep up. Jesus very gently corrected Martha in our story by saying: “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and it won’t be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Reflecting on your own life, do you relate better with Martha; often finding yourself overwhelmed with trying to keep up? Are you too busy to connect with those in your life? Are you feeling underwhelmed in your soul? What things can you shift around or cut from your week, in order to purposely make time to connect with your loved ones?

Finding the Gold: Hold On For Dear Life

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Over the last three weeks I’ve dug into the responses from three questions I asked of a couple dozen friends. On week one we looked at our identity and on week two, our purpose. We concluded that both our identity and our purpose are only fully maximized when looked at through a Jesus filter. Any and all other perspectives (our own, the world’s, our friends, etc) creates a misinformed view of who we are and who we are created to be.

The third and final question I asked was this:
Does the way you feel about yourself affect your relationship with God and the way He sees you?

Once again the responses I received were incredibly diverse. We are all in different seasons in our lives, after all. Each response echoed the fact that ‘yes’ the way we feel about ourselves directly affects our relationship with God. Each person also deduced that regardless of how our relationship with God changes or is affected by our own interpretations of our present circumstances, God’s love for us never does. His love is unconditional, eternal and endures all things.

These are great realizations based on biblical truths. Ecclesiastes 3:1-9, 1 Corinthians 13 mirror these responses. Are we living as though we truly believe in God’s unconditional love for us? His incredible love is transformational —are we being transformed? Are we being pushed to be more like Christ because our faith is propelling us forward?

If we aren’t being changed by the redeeming love of Christ, we gain nothing but unrest and feeling ‘stuck’. If this is how you’re feeling— if the way you are feeling about yourself affects you in such a way that you doubt your salvation, you need to go straight to the word of God and remember these truths:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:14)

“Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Memorize these scriptures, tuck them deep into your heart for the moments your faith is a little weaker or your circumstances start pushing you to believe in something less than what the Lord has for you. Find the gold, my friend. And when you find the gold, hold on to it for dear life because everything in this world will want to steal it away from you.

Finding The Gold: “Made For Great Things”

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Last week on the blog I wrote part one of a three part series that I feel God has laid on my heart to share. If you’re just joining us today, I asked a group of people the question; “What top three words would you use to describe how YOU see YOURSELF?

We concluded that when 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.

The second question I asked in my short survey was:
“When someone tells you, “You were made for great things”, how does that make you feel?”

Much the same as the diversity discovered in the first batch of answers, were the results from question number two. Many said that having these words spoken over their lives would leave them feeling anxious, unprepared and stressed. Others, felt the complete opposite. They felt that having these words spoken over their lives would fill them with passion, give them hope and a renewed sense of purpose.

While I believe we were all designed and created for greatness, I am fully aware we have all fallen short of who we were intended to be by fault our sinful nature.
“For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23

But that doesn’t leave us without hope for doing good and living out the will of God with greatness.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” —Ephesians 2:8-9

As I encouraged you last week to view your identity through the lens of Christ instead of through your own eyes (which are sure to betray you!), I would like to similarly encourage you this week to view your purpose through the lens of Christ.

God has a purpose for all of us. Those of us who fervently seek to live our lives modelled after Christ and His biblical example will be those of us who live that purpose to it’s fullest potential. However, when we truly reach that point, our goal will not be greatness as the world see’s greatness. Greatness will be a means to measure the capacity in which we allowed God to use us to fulfill His will in our present circumstances.

Perhaps if your reaction to the question was feelings of anxiety, stress and unpreparedness you could break out of your restrictive box and take a bold step forward in the plans that God has for you. This action which will require you to intentionally view your purpose from His perspective.

Take a few moments and ask God now if you’re living out the purposes He has for you, and if you’re not, ask Him to reveal those to you.

Finding the Gold: 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

Over the next three weeks I want to dive into some thoughts the Lord has laid on my heart in response to a few questions I’ve asked a very diverse group of people. We will start with the first question and apply biblical principles while we unpack some of the things I have learned from my friends honest answers. I will share my answers to these questions each week as well. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Question number one:
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.