Week THREE: Beautifully Broken

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“A gossip betrays a confidence so avoid anyone who talks too much.” — Proverbs 20:19

This summer I shared some exciting news in confidence with a lady I felt I could trust. My husband and I accepted a new ministry position in his hometown and were moving back ‘home’. We asked that the news be kept confidential until we told both our children and our current church family. A promise was made that this lady would not say a word — but I soon started to receive text messages from a few that she too had told our news in ‘confidence.’

At first, I was very angry. This wasn’t her news to tell, it was mine. I soon realized the part that made me the angriest was that she had betrayed my trust. I had specifically asked her to keep my news in confidence until we were able to tell a few other very important people in our lives and she simply dishonored my request.

“A gossip betrays confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” — Proverbs 11:13

One of the number one things I have learned over my years in ministry has been that a listening ear is invaluable and a trusted friend, priceless. I make every effort to be both of those things to those God puts in my path, because I know the effect that it has on me when both of those qualities are not present in a friend. It is difficult to experience any depth with someone who talks non-stop and/or betrays your trust.

Let’s pause and have a little discussion:

  1. Have you ever been hurt by someone who betrayed your trust?
  2. How did you handle that breach of trust?

You may have noticed that I called this post, “Beautifully Broken.” I want to explain in this second part why I have given this post that title.

Admittedly, I was hurt when the person I mentioned above broke my trust. But, I chose to give my hurt to God and allow Him to heal those angry feelings toward her. When we allow God to put our brokenness back together, we still remain imperfect— but with His grace we become beautifully broken. Without God’s help we will eventually overflow those fragments of our brokenness and hurt others in the same ways we have been hurt. With God’s help and healing power we are often given beautiful opportunities to encourage and speak life into others who experience similar hurts to us.

That being said, I want so very desperately to be beautifully broken. How about you?

Chapter FIVE: Tenderhearted and Tough Skinned

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

I like this to a phrase my pastor often used when I was a teenager. He said that most people tend to have hard hearts and thin skins, but we as followers of Jesus should be different. Instead, we should be tenderhearted and tough skinned.Such wonderful advice. When we harden our hearts and let every little offence poke a hole in our happiness, we only hurt ourselves. We are slurping on a smoothie of poison and don’t even know it. But when we soften our hearts with love for others, and toughen our skins against their barbs, we are better equipped to show the compassionate love of Jesus to a watching world.” — Karen Ehman, Keep It Shut, pg. 93

Believing the Best
The paragraph just above the quote I shared with you is such an important perspective to live by. Karen shares a rule that Lysa TerKeurst has implemented in the offices of Proverbs 31 Ministries and it goes like this: “…When a conflict arises or our feathers get ruffled, we shouldn’t automatically jump to the conclusion that the other person meant us ill, but give them the benefit of the doubt. Not assume the worst, but believe the best about their motives.

Now, I don’t know about you…but there are days when I have trouble with believing the best about people even in the absence of conflict. There are just some people who’s personalities do more colliding with mine than meshing, you know? That doesn’t mean that I ever blurt out the worst that my heart conjures up. But, that’s just it. My heart has conjured up the ugliness, and the ugliness is not righteous or Godly.

I know I need God’s strength and help to overcome those thoughts and help me to work towards having a heart that instead believes the best. And, I believe it’s that simple. The bible says that Jesus is as close as the mention of His name. (Psalm 145:18) When I recognize that my heart is believing the worst, I will ask God to help turn my thoughts to the best instead.

We Must Be Diligent to Weigh Our Own Hearts
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23
In addition to calling on Jesus when we recognize that our hearts are producing things that are not Godly, we must do our own homework as well. We must, must, must guard our hearts. What we consume when we eat affects our physical bodies. In the same way, what we are (or are not) consuming in our spiritual lives affects our hearts. It is imperative that we spend time each day with the Lord, making every effort to guard our heart. What flows from my heart is certainly indicative of what I have been putting in to it.

Give Grace to Those Who Speak Ill of Us
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” – Colossians 4:6
If you’ve believed the best but the worst has still been the reality — please, give more grace. It feels backwards, I understand that, but it is truly what the Lord requires of us. And, Jesus lived this example beautifully time and time again. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.

If you can’t remember anything else from today’s message, remember this: Just give grace.

Week TWO Teaching: Cyberspace Playground Rules (Ch 4-6)

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Good morning and welcome to week two, WAHD OBSers!

In the case you are just joining us, let me first say that we are journeying through the book “Keep It Shut” by Karen Ehman in our little online community and there IS still time to join us. Last week (September 4-10) we discussed chapters one, two and three. This week (September 11-17) we will take a look at chapters four, five and six!

Last week in my post I shared some practical ways in which keeping an appointment with Jesus every day has helped me to live a life that is fuller and more at peace. I shared some face-to-face moments with you in a video that I recorded from my bathroom because my house was booming with the laughter of over a dozen children (No, not all mine) thus proving the reason I very much need to be intentional about claiming my time with Him.

This week I would like to draw your attention to chapter six, specifically. Starting on page 102, Karen shares with us ‘Rules for the Cyberspace Playground’ and they are SO good, I wanted to make a point of going over a few of the ones that have grabbed my attention personally.

First of all, let me start by saying that I believe the internet and social media has and does serve as an invaluable tool on such a large scale. The people my team and I have been able to reach with the messages that God has given to us would not have been a possibility if it weren’t for both of these resources. But of course, if not used wisely, the internet and social media can be as dangerous than the largest and most powerful weaponry – or worse.

Our words. They hold great power and responsibility, friends.

Let’s review what Karen shares with us in chapter six about the rules for the cyberspace playground:

  1. Pray before you post
  2. Imagine the recipient sitting next to you
  3. Remember when you’re online, you’re also on stage
  4. Ask yourself if you’ve earned the right to address the subject at hand
  5. Ask yourself if you have a close enough relationship with the person to warrant offering your opinion
  6. When you do speak, let your speech be laced with grace

Let me zone in on number two for a moment. Imagine the recipient sitting next to you. I think that thinking otherwise is where so many of us get into trouble. It is so much easier to have your speech laced with grace when you are face-to-face. Just having the person in front of you provides a sense of accountability of its own. Likewise, it seems we get careless and clumsy when speaking to each other online. Intention and tone are missing when we speak via a screen, so we need to be ever-mindful of our reactions when responding to others online.

Number five really resonated in my heart as well. Ask Yourself if you have a close enough relationship with the person to warrant offering your opinion. Let me say this as kindly as possible: Being Facebook friends does not give you permission to speak into someone’s life. It just doesn’t. There has got to be a greater depth before you offer your opinion. If you spend time with the person on a regular basis, then perhaps your opinion should be voiced, but do put a voice to it. Take the person out for a coffee and share your heart in person, not online.

Karen has hit a home run with these six cyberspace playground rules. Thank you, Karen. If you haven’t read them over yet, PLEASE do! They are useful for anyone who uses social media or communicates via a screen.

In the comments below, please share TWO things:
1.  Which cyberspace rule you plan to work on?
2.  Which cyberspace rule you find is most often broken in your online community?

Chapter Two: Squabbles, Spats and Such

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Before we open our mouths, we need to think about not only to whom we’re speaking but also what they may be dealing with at the time and how the news may impact them.” — Karen Ehman, Keep It Shut, pg. 31

In chapter two Karen reminds of of the story of Joseph and how simply sharing his God-given dreams with his brothers caused them to stumble. She shares some incredibly wise points to think about when sharing our dreams and failures with family, friends and other necessary people in our lives. To recap those points:

  1. Beware of bragging — and the impact your good news could have on others.
  2. Say what honours God, not what other people want to hear.
  3. Realize that lies are the minuscule snowflakes in a monumental snowball.
  4. Give God credit where credit is due.
  5. Watch your words in the workplace.
  6. Just because you have a reason to retaliate does not mean you’re justified in doing so.
  7. Don’t be God.
  8. Do be nice.

The quote I shared at the beginning of this post is something I have had to learn myself over and over again. I’ve learned the art of obeying to the Holy Spirit on whether to share or not to share a piece of information with the person I am speaking to. There have been times when God has placed something incredibly exciting on my heart, but I was not given the green light to share for a time. Other times, when I have had personal struggles, he also has impressed on me specifically who is safe to share with and to whom I must steer clear.

Three things I know to be true:

1. You need to know who you are speaking to.
Yes, it is true. You must know your audience. If you’re telling information that is not supposed to be shared, simply put — don’t tell someone with loose lips.
“Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” Proverbs 26:20

2. You don’t know what the person is dealing with or how your news will impact them.
Be so careful to share only as the Holy Spirit leads, friends. Even good news can crush a person’s spirit. Be in tune with the Holy Spirit in such a way that you know when He is giving a green light to share as well as when He is giving the red light to withhold.
“They are dismayed for they have heard bad news. Their courage melts because they have heard bad news.” Jeremiah 49:23

3. You may never know what a person is dealing with, and you need to be ok with that.
The Holy Spirit may not give you the ok to share your news with someone because of a personal struggle that only He knows. We need to do better at being ok with not knowing all the details of others lives and simply following the leading of His Holy Spirit.
“For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own within them. In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11

Let’s use our mouths to honour God and our people. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment but let’s do our best to be better. Being intentional about first checking with the Holy Spirit on what or what not to share could make all the difference in someone’s life.

Week One Teaching: It Only Takes a Spark (Ch 1-3)

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Good Morning, We are His Daughters OBSers!!!

I count it an incredible privilege and honour to hold this seat for our ‘Keep It Shut’ OBS. Each week I will be choosing a quote or concept that Karen Ehman has written about in the week’s assigned chapters and will be sharing some insights as the Lord leads.

This first week we will be reading and discussing chapters one through three. I want to start off by saying that I absolutely adore Karen Ehman and the way she shares her heart in this book. It takes courage to be as transparent as she has been, and I commend her for that bravery.

Karen reminds us within the first couple of pages that our words are powerful and have consequences. On page 18 she says, “How I use my words, whether for good or for evil, can often, although not always, be traced back to the quality time I am (or am not) spending with the Lord each day, how intentional I am about investing in my relationship with him, and whether or not I am taking steps to become more like his son, Jesus Christ.

In 2012 I found myself a new mom for the third time, lacking sleep in enormous quantities and simultaneously lacking in any form of intentionality when it came to my time with the Lord. When I could grab a moment, I’d sit down with my bible and read a chapter or two. Even those sporadic encounters were chased away by simple day-to-day living and routine. It wasn’t long before my lack of sleep matched my lack of relationship with the Lord.

One of my spiritual mentors noticed I was operating on low fuel and lovingly called me on it. She encouraged me to set a time every day to read my bible, pray and worship. As I began to think on when would be best to unwrap this much needed time with God — there was always something that stood in the way. So, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and made time! I would normally get up around 7am every morning, but decided to rewind the clock and get up at 6am every day instead setting aside the first hour of my day to spend with Jesus.

In all fairness, the first month of this new routine was hideous. I would drag myself downstairs, brew a cup of coffee and become incredibly distracted by the fact that I could barely even keep my eyelids open. But, it wasn’t long before that hour became the most precious portion of my day! God stirred within me a passion for His word – all simply because I showed up every day to sit as His feet and listen to what He had to say before I used any words of my own. And today, because I grew so much in that discipline, I get up even earlier everyday (5am) to spend with Jesus.

I think it is also very important to recognize that it takes more than simply showing up to really see the difference. “But the most important thing is responding to the Holy Spirit’s tap on my heart when He whispers to me.” (Keep It Shut, pg. 19)

No matter how together you feel, or how much you feel like you are falling apart — we all desperately need to spend quality time with the Lord. Karen hit the nail on the head when she said how I use my words can be traced back to the quality time I am spending with the Lord each day.

WATCH VIDEO HERE

Let’s chat…

In the comment section below, please choose one or more of the following questions to discuss with other OBSers:

  1. Do you currently carve out intentional time to spend with Jesus every day? If yes, please share what that looks like for you. If not, what are some of the main things standing in your way?
  2. Do you find when you read your bible, pray and take time to personally worship the Lord that your attitude changes? How so?
  3. What attainable goal can you set this week to carve out that special time with God. If you already have a time set apart, what goal can you set to push yourself a little deeper?

A Time For Goodbye, And a Time For Hello

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

Seasons are these funny things that provide an inevitable period of time designated for certain things to happen. Where I come from, winter is always a time for snow and cold weather. Summer is a time to relax and hang out by the pool while enjoying the sunshine on your face. Spring is for fresh flowers and new beginnings. Fall is a time for harvest and all things pumpkin spice. Each season has its beauty.

Like seasons of weather, life has seasons as well. This past weekend my family said good-bye to a decade full of relationships, church ministry and a place we called home! While driving the many miles that now separate us, a deep sense of mourning came over my very being. My husband is beginning a new ministry position in just a couple of weeks, and while we are looking very forward to that, I was feeling guilty for feeling caught in the middle of the sadness that plagued me from leaving such incredible things behind and the joy that comes with the plans the Lord has for us right here in this brand new season.

The Lord used a good friend to remind me of the scripture from Ecclesiastes 3 where the bible tells us there is a time for everything. He reminded me that the Lord will give us the strength to embrace the beauty that comes with the new season before us, despite the fact that we are simultaneously muddling through a season of loss.

Some seasons will inevitably be liked more than others, but God has said there is purpose in all of the seasons we face. Are you facing a particularly hard season in your life right now? Ask God to reveal to you the beauty in your current season while also preparing you for the beauty to come in future seasons.

Bless you, sister! Xo

 

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.