God sees…..me?!

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

I have been studying books of the bible with thousands of women via the #First5 app. The book of Genesis is full to overflowing with adventures and I am absolutely loving my time spent studying those adventures every morning.

God’s presence was especially tangible as I recently studied Genesis chapter 16.

To give you a little background to this story, Abram and Sarai were still experiencing infertility at this point. Sarai’s empty arms were desperate for a newborn. From this desperation Sarai made the decision to ‘help God along’ with His covenant to Abram (Genesis 15:4-6) and she gave Abram to her maidservant Hagar as his wife. Sarai thought…”perhaps I can build a family through her.” (Genesis 16:2b)

Just as Sarai planned, Abram slept with Hagar and she conceived. This discovery was not a favourable one for Hagar, however, and Hagar began to resent Sarai. In retaliation to Hagar’s ill feelings toward her, Sarai decides to mistreat her. There are no details to how Sarai mistreated Hagar in the scriptures, however, in Genesis 16:6b the bible tells us that Hagar fled from Sarai.

Hagar is found sitting near a spring in the desert by an angel of the Lord. The angel asks Hagar “where have you come from, and where are you going?” (verse 8) Hagar informs the angel that she is running away from Sarai.

It is in the next few verses that God really spoke into my heart. The angel of the Lord told Hagar to “go back to [her] mistress and submit to her.” Say what?!
And then the angel added, I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count. You are with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael for the Lord has heard of your misery.” (Genesis 16:10 & 11)

Later on in verse thirteen Hagar says “‘You are the God who sees me,‘ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.‘”

The one who sees me. Isn’t that amazing, friends?!

First of all, God knew that Hagar was running away from Sarai because she disliked her. It never has been God’s plan for us to be in conflict with one another. (Check out Matthew 18:15-20) Rather than run from the trouble she was facing, God asked Hagar to go back and face it head on.

I don’t know about you- but sometimes I just find it easier to run. And run and run. And run some more. But, God has better plans for His children. When we find ourselves in conflict – it’s our responsibility to face that conflict head on and make amends.

Secondly, (I so love this part), God gave the baby that Hagar was carrying the name Ishmael. Ishmael means “God listens.”

God listens!!! He listens and He sees (Genesis 16:11) our every move. He listens and He sees us during times of conflict. He listens and He sees us when we are answering His calls on our lives; and He listens and He sees us when we are being disobedient. He listens and He sees us when we are sinning. He understands our hearts and the things that affect us. He doesn’t turn His back on us– HE LISTENS AND HE SEES US. I find that incredibly comforting.

Our gracious and loving God runs after us – even when we do our very best to run away. He listens to our miserable woes and He sees our hurting hearts. But, He has better for us. And, when we obey, there is always blessing to follow.

Father God, thank You for the peace that comes with knowing that You listen and You see me. Little old me. Thank You also, for reminding us that conflict is never Your choice and that Your desire is for us to be in unity with one another. I love You so much, Lord. Amen.

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 a 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 my 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. Sacrificially, genuinely, passionately, wholeheartedly, and unconditionally.

Jesus, thank You. Thank You for loving us first with the most incredibly radical love that has ever been shown. Thank You that we don’t have to be awesome at cleaning, cooking and ironing in order to be a ‘good’ wife. Thank You that Your word reminds us that it was You who created us, and everything You have created is good. Jesus, I pray for my sisters who are struggling in their marriages right now, not because of a marriage gone bad; but because they do not feel they measure up to other wives. Please overwhelm their hearts with the truth that You have made them fearfully and wonderfully. YOU have created them; and that alone makes them good enough. Please bring peace to their minds and calmness to their spirits in this very moment. In Jesus name. Amen.

EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT REVEALED!!!!

Hello, my friends!

Its Mandy here with you today and I couldn’t be more excited (just ask my team!!) to share with you this special announcement today!!! I’ll let my friend, Karen Ehman, take it from here…

Here are the details that go along with this exciting announcement:

Dates: September 4-October 1, 2017

Sign up will open very soon and we would be so honoured if you would join us!! We have completely revamped the way we do Online Book Study and we cannot wait to reveal to you even more surprises in the days ahead!

Comment below if you are planning to join us!

Can I Call You Back In Five Years?

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a)
Have you ever noticed that when the phone rings at your house E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E has a question, a request and needs your immediate attention? Some days you live for that phone to ring…..a voice from the outside; a voice of sanity; something other than utter chaos. An adult voice that sounds of maturity and speaks truth in the form of outside perspective.
Just when you hear that phone ring, you run for the receiver knowing you can’t get to that voice on the other end quick enough……and as you pick up your house suddenly erupts into a complete and absolute three-ringed circus.
My “circus rings” are now ages 8, 7, 5 and 2. On any normal day my house is anything but quiet. Trust me, sisters, it is always loud at my house! (Most days I love every moment of the chaos!) But there are some days I truly just need a couple moments to sit down and be still; share a few stories with a good friend; laugh out loud, and maybe even cry a little to shed off self-pity and my perceived defeat.
I have been thinking about this very thing and wonder if we sometimes treat God the same way when He calls… When our lives are busy and loud, He calls, and suddenly we have every excuse to get louder and more busy! I was challenged today by a wise friend to just rest and enjoy the quiet moments; to be still and really listen for God’s voice.
Life with kids can sometimes appear impossible to find a quiet enough time to really listen for the voice of God. (I so get that!!!) I do believe, however, that it is such an important thing to pursue. Hearing the voice of God, truly listening for His voice is an incredible privilege that we have as His children.
I love how this verse ends with a promise. “Be still, and know that I am God.” If you take time to be still, He will reveal Himself to you. Please don’t deny yourself this incredible privilege.
Be still, and KNOW!
Father God, thank you so much for my kids. I love that my house is so full of life. Please keep me mindful of the blessings that they are and equip me with patience and encouragement as I endeavour to pour love into them from the overflow of the love I have received from You. We so need You and your daily presence in our lives and desire to seek that as a more natural part of my life. Please guide us as we try and decide what time best works for us to truly sit and be still in Your presence. I pray this in Your precious and holy name, Jesus, amen.

Dare To Be Countercultural

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

I am so enjoying the #First5 App and the incredible bible teachings by the leadership that have created it. This week I thoroughly loved the teaching on Genesis 5 lead by Whitney Capps. She shared some thoughts on Enoch and how while there isn’t a lot documented about him, It does say that he was faithful to walk with God.

“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24)

Whitney reminds us in her teaching that Enoch lived in the days before the flood. Just a few verses later we read: “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth- men and animals, creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air- for I am grieved that I have made them.’ But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:6-9)

Enoch lived in a time when God grieved the creation of mankind. Yet, the bible says that “Enoch walked faithfully with God.” (Genesis 5:24a) Enoch wasn’t a people pleaser, or a trend follower. Enoch went against the grain and faithfully walked with God while everyone else turned their backs on Him and lived lives filled with sin.

The line that truly spoke to me more than anything else this week was this:
He was countercultural.” – Whitney Capps

Think about that word for a moment. Countercultural. Would this be a good word to describe you? Your marriage? Your family?

Let’s face it friends, our world is messed up. It takes some serious guts to step out and walk against the current- culture is shouting at us every way we turn- but think of the treasure we will miss out on if we decide to take the easier route and go with the flow. I’m sure that walking with God for over 300 years wasn’t easy for Enoch- he was the only one amongst a world of sinners to do it- but the bible says he did and was faithful in doing so.

Will you dare to be countercultural? Will you dare to be an Enoch?

Father, please help us in our boldness in walking with you. Help us with courage in tuning out the shouts of the world for the joy of walking with you. You never promised that walking faithfully with you would be easy, but we hold tight to the promise that it will be worth it when we meet you face to face and spend eternity with you. In Jesus name, amen.

Take it Full-Face

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times. (Lamentations 3:25-27)

Every single morning I drag myself out of bed and make myself a cup of coffee in our keurig machine. Now, as much as I love coffee, believe it or not, I strongly dislike hot things. So, every morning after I brew my coffee, I wait. I wait until it’s an appropriate temperature for my liking.

Some mornings my coffee takes forever to cool down. Those really sleepy, I-need-to-wake-up-now mornings, are the worst. Yet, if I want to enjoy my cup of coffee; wait, I must.

Another thing I strongly dislike is waiting. Waiting sometimes seems like valuable time wasted. Especially when you’re waiting for something really wonderful to happen.

I remember those long years of waiting in anticipation to become pregnant. Month after month of negative pregnancy tests made me feel like precious time as a Mommy was being wasted. I also remember the 9 loooooong months of that first pregnancy. How I longed to hold my precious baby; this baby I had prayed so hard for. Those months seemed to last an eternity!

However, taking these very examples; important things take place in seasons of waiting. From the complex growth that takes place during those 9 months of pregnancy – to the few extra minutes I need to wait for my coffee to cool down. The time required to ‘wait’ is just as important as the treasure at the other end. The reality is, if I tried to speed up these valuable waiting periods, I would have given birth to a premature baby and suffered from a burnt tongue.

Jeremiah writes of the hope that God has given him during times of waiting in Lamentations 3. I love his guidance in these verses:
When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way: (Lamentations 3:28-33)

Sometimes when we are seeking God prayerfully for a specific answer, He brings us through a season of waiting. Let’s remember these scriptures when these seasons arise and choose to embrace the waiting, rather than rush it; for we know that during a season of waiting, good things are being prepared for the treasure at the other end.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your reminder that You are good to those who passionately wait. Thank You for practical examples that show us that waiting is an important time to embrace. Please help us with our impatience and help us see the joy in our seasons of waiting. I ask these things in Your name; Amen.

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 withdraw 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 even a lot 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.

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.

Love, Patience & Discipline

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

A few years ago, I attended a funeral for a lady that was a relative of some friends of my family. It was a really beautiful service which highlighted the many ways her family will remember her including: her devotion to Christ, her strong will, her ability to pray and the love she lavished onto her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It was during her son’s eulogy that God began to speak to my heart. He shared that his mom possessed three qualities that made her the “best mom in the world.”

1) Love
2) Patience
3) Discipline

I must admit, when he first shared this ‘best-mom-in-the-world’ combination, it seemed like quite a mixed bag. However, as he elaborated…the Holy Spirit gently nudged me.

These Mom-qualities are actually quite complimentary.

As a fairly new mom myself, I am learning things on a daily basis. Love without discipline is a disaster waiting to happen. Respect and responsibility are two very important things that come as a direct outcome of discipline. Love which involves discipline is a pretty amazing gift when you think about it. Discipline without love pretty much speaks for itself. And, all you mom’s out there would most likely agree that it takes a multitude of patience to implement discipline with love. As love and discipline work together to create a precious gift; patience is the beautiful bow that wraps the three together.

The bible speaks of these qualities as a few of the very gifts of the spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23‬ NET)

As this son wrapped up the eulogy he’d carefully written about his mom, he had the room convinced that she had ‘done himself (and his five other siblings) good.’ He recognized that discipline was necessary and even said that he and his siblings “got what they deserved.” He stood confident in her love and adored her for her wealth of patience. The deepness of both his love and respect for his mom was truly inspirational to me in my role as a mom.

How will your children stand when you leave this world? Will they stand confident in your love; respectful and patient? Or, alternatively, will they stand unassured, trapped in a place of entitlement from lack of discipline; or wounded from your failure to proceed with patience? If your answer is the latter, how might you change to correct this?

Jesus, thank You for the sweet sweet gift of motherhood. Please help me to be a Mom of integrity and Christ-like character. I pray that as I endeavour to raise my children, they feel not only an assurance that I love them, but that You too love them in abundance. In Your name I pray, amen.

If Only the Lottery gave away TIME!

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

As I was feeling overwhelmed with my list of things to do recently, I thought to myself that – if ever there was a lottery where the prize was time – I would be the first in line for a ticket. Do you ever feel like there are just not enough hours in the day, days in the week or months in the year?!

What I could accomplish with an extra couple of hours a week, even! Yes, time would certainly be an invaluable win for me.

As I joked with my friend over coffee that day, I silently felt deep conviction over my long list of work that needed to be done. When I got home I began to mentally brainstorm ways that I could fit in everything I needed to do. Imagine my frustration when my mental list kept being crumpled up with the many demands of my family:

“Mommy, look at this superman I drew. I think it’s my best one yet!!”

“Mommy, can you come and hear the song I can play on the piano? I bet you’ll think I’m so much better than yesterday!”

“Mommy, can you play with me?”

“Want to go for a walk to the park this afternoon with the kids?”

…wait. What!? You ask. You were frustrated with those things?! Those are wonderful things.

I’m over here– raising a guilty hand confirming a big, ugly: yes.

My life is filled with a whole-lot-of-wonderful. My guess, is that if you take a step back and look into your life using a different lens that you too will see that your life is full of wonderful things as well.

If we aren’t careful to budget our time wisely – ensuring there is a balance between work, play and rest- we will most certainly gain frustration as an end result. Instead of making those precious memories at the park with my family or playing tractors on the floor with my three-year-old, I stewed about how little time I have to do all I need to do.

We must be careful not to have our plates so full that we can’t make time for the precious lives that we are so honoured to be a part of.

God has blessed us all in incredible ways, friends. Take a moment today to thank God for your many blessings and endeavour to improve that balance between work, play and rest. (Yes, even rest, my friend.)

Father God, please help us to be better stewards of the time you have so graciously given to us. We love you and we want to honour you with each and every moment. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

My husband and I decided to surprise our two older children a couple of years ago by bringing them to the movie theatre as a special little outing. We saw a cute little movie in theatre which got me thinking…..! One single line in this film stuck out more than any of the others:

“Don’t hate the player; hate the game.”

Immediately following this line, Ephesians 6:12 popped into my head. This little metaphor truly sums up this scripture, doesn’t it?

Has someone ever come up to you and randomly told you off?! How about through an email or social media?! Or worse yet, how about if you found out someone was slanderously talking about you behind your back? Personally, I wish all was ALWAYS right with this world. But, life just isn’t like that sometimes. Sometimes it seems there is a revolving door on those that want to pick you apart or negatively criticize you.

My heart rate usually increases exponentially. My hands and feet get extra sweaty. My head begins to pound and an all-too-familiar sickness forms in the pit of my stomach.

This verse reminds me to look at conflict in a different way. To not battle with the person who would rather talk bad about me behind my back than encourage or uplift me. To hold my breath and just listen as that person randomly vents their anger aimed at me. To consider the fact that this human being is loved by God just as much as I am, and that this conflict is not against me or this individual; instead against the game that the enemy so badly wants us to play.

My friends, don’t fall for it. Rise above the enemies schemes to throw you off the course that The Lord has set before you. Matthew 5:44 says: “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”

It isn’t easy to love those who hurt you. Trust me, I know. Our fleshy pride would like nothing more than to tell that person just how you feel and serve them a big slice of justice. But, if in those moments of conflict, and more so during the temptation to be vengeful, you can wrap your head around the idea to ‘love the player; hate the game’ just think of the victory that will be accomplished!

I DARE you to PRAY for those who persecute you.

Jesus, we thank You for the truth Your word gives us. We thank You that Your grace is sufficient. We desire to extend Your grace to those who have caused us hurt either in the past, in the present or to those who will cause us hurt in the coming days. Thank You for showing us that the battles we face are not against flesh and blood- but against the enemy’s attempt to strum up a fierce game of defeat. God help us to love the ‘players’, because You loved them first. We know that we are no greater than them and we want to love them like You do through any hurt we may feel. Jesus, I pray that instead of getting hung up on emotions, You will stir up in us a rage against the battles the enemy wishes and attempts to begin. Equip us and train us to fight victoriously against ‘the game’ showing love to one another in the process, praying for one another through conflict, victoriously conquering the battle in Your precious name. Thank you Jesus, Amen!