Marriage Can Be Stinkin’ Hard

By | General, Get Inspired | 97 Comments

Today’s post is written by friend and contributor, Lara Williams. Her new book To Walk or Stay launches this week! Check it out.

Marriage can be stinkin’ hard. Well…at least my marriage has been stinkin’ hard. (And yes, my husband would say the same.)

But God.

There’s no other explanation, but God. According to the world’s standards, we shouldn’t have survived this long. From the outside looking in, the valleys should have destroyed us. But. God.

We were a train wreck just waiting to happen. We both entered marriage with unspoken, unrealistic, selfish expectations for what this “I do” meant. And eventually, infidelity put its mark on our home.

 

To Walk or Stay by Lara Williams
Click here to read more about To Walk or Stay.

 

But this book isn’t about my husband or his sin. Because believe me, it’s only by God’s grace that the tables weren’t turned. This book is about a very big God who patiently waits to meet us in the darkest of valleys.

It was in the dark that I wrestled with God, working out His view of love, forgiveness, and freedom. It was in the dark that He proved Himself sufficient.

My man and I have a redemption story to tell. Amazingly, miraculously, God has restored the years. But the greatest gifts were those things that God did in me through the fiery trial — peace in the storm and joy in what should have been debilitating despair.

Our marriage hasn’t been easy, but it has been beautifully purposeful. Because God is faithful. Regardless of where life has us, there’s hope because He reigns.

 

Giveaway! (Now Closed)

 
This week marks the launch of To Walk or Stay. (YAY!) And to celebrate, we’re giving a free copy to 5 lovely, randomly-selected winners.

To enter the giveaway, just share this post on any of your favorite social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) and then leave a comment below for each time you shared.

Get two entries if you go ahead and purchase the book. (That way, if you win the free copy, you can give one to a friend for Lara’s book club that begins April 15th.) Leave two comments below if you purchase the book today!

 

About Lara
Speaker and writer, Lara Williams lives in central North Carolina with her husband and three young children. Click here to check out her blog.

A Simple Way to Bring Peace to the Dinner Table

By | General, Get Inspired | 11 Comments

This post was written by contributor Lara Williams.

Our dinner table has felt circus-like lately. Our kids have been talking over one another, flipping around in their seats, and karate-chopping apples (that only happened once). The slow progression to slight madness finally pushed us to our limits.

“Dinnertime is changing, people.”

 

Bring peace to the dinner table

 

It finally dawned on us that our kids didn’t know how to have a dinner conversation. And we needed to teach them. *duh*

So youngest to oldest, they take turns asking someone a question. It may be a question about the other person’s day or about their likes. Then once the person answers the question, we encourage them to ask a “deeper,” follow-up question, i.e. how did/does that make you feel?

And it’s actually working!

We want our kids to learn to esteem others higher than themselves. That means we listen more than we speak. We think about the perspective and challenges of others. And we get to know the heart behind our brother’s words.

 

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

 

The dinner table is just one more place to teach them true things. (And maybe at this rate, we’ll dodge the clown suit.)

How do you encourage a peaceful meal time? Click here to join the conversation.

About Lara
Speaker and writer, Lara Williams lives in central North Carolina with her husband and three young children. Click here to check out her blog.

how to shepherd those kids in our “flock”

By | General, Get Inspired | 6 Comments

This post is written by our monthly contributor, Lara Williams.

 

 

I don’t know who coined the phrase, but mothering really does feel like herding cats at times. Can I get a witness. So whether to sheep or cats…or kids, we as moms shepherd a flock. I think that’s why Peter’s words from 1 Peter 5 ministered so deeply to me this week.

Let’s look at how we as moms are called to shepherd our kids. Because I need all the help I can get. Amen?

 

 

To lay the backdrop, shepherding means tending or feeding…NOT controlling. Ahem. Seriously. In my fleshly natural self, I like to control my kids. In fact if I’m really honest, I’m an outstanding mother until they don’t do what I want them to do. That’s when things can fall apart. Recovering control-freak in the hi-zouse.

Peter isn’t calling us to control them. Take a deep breath. He’s instructing on how to shepherd — how to tend to the souls of others. He says we’re to “take oversight.”

You know what that means? It means we “look diligently” at others. It means we’re all there in conversations. It means we look them in the eyes when they talk, rather than at the screen of our phone. It means we think about the things they are saying — no matter how immature the words may be. And it means we pray to see what’s hovering behind their words, so we can minister to the heart.

But then he tells us how. This is where it gets good (and super convicting, so I dare you to keep reading.) This is where he addresses our own heart as the shepherd.

He says to shepherd willingly, eagerly, and as an example of God’s love. Girls, I’ll be the first to admit that there are certain days (and times of the month) where I am not shepherding very eagerly. Or willingly. And it pains me to admit it because God always looks at our heart.

He isn’t looking for us to be good do-ers. He’s looking for us to be restful be-ers. (Not beers, but be-ers.) To be intimate with Him allowing Him and His love to overflow onto those around us. That’s the place of blessing for everyone involved.

Three things for when we’re struggling to shepherd our little flock.

 

  1. Confess our sin and declare our neediness for God to do this mother thing through us. He isn’t looking for independent agents. He’s looking for those who depend and trust His empowering. Confess and declare.
  2.  

  3. Renew our minds towards our kids! This. Is. SO. Key! In fact this should be circled and highlighted and taped to our foreheads. Because if I’m painfully honest, when my shepherding isn’t so lovely my heart is filled with negative, critical thoughts about my kids or about motherhood.
  4.  

    As moms we’re desperate for a renewed mind. So a few key thoughts I like to think upon to renew my own mind in those not-so-lovely-moments are:

    • These kids aren’t mine. They’re God’s! He is working His will in and through them. He is unfolding a beautiful plan. (Jeremiah 29:11)
    • We are ALL in process. God began a good work in them and He will faithfully bring it to completion. (Phil. 1:6)
    • Remember how long it took me to get to where I am in my own faith. They are children. Give them time to learn how to depend on Him to fight their battles.
    • Father, show me how to reflect your love right now in this moment.(John 13:34-35)
    • Lord, I pray for _______________________. I see weakness in this area so I ask on her behalf that You by Your power make it a place of greatest strength in her life. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

     

  5. Rest in His matchless grace. We’re going to fail as parents. We aren’t the ones that ultimately “save” our children. God is the One who draws them to Himself. And He does it in spite of us. That’s what makes His grace so amazing.

We as moms are shepherds. And I know, like me, you want to shepherd well. So hands in and on three we say, “Yes!” to God’s commission. 1-2-3, “YES!”

 
How does thinking on your motherhood role as “shepherding” encourage or challenge you?
What encouraged you this week from (the last week of!) the Kept study?

living today on purpose {and free from mommy-guilt}

By | General | 20 Comments

Today’s post is by monthly contributor Lara Williams.

Time is flying past me too quick. I can’t remember the exact day that marks the last time I carried my daughter up the stairs. I just know that she’s too big for my arms.

And I can’t remember the exact day that marks the last time I changed a diaper or filled a bottle or opened a jar of mushy carrots. I just know that time has flown, kids have grown, and days are different.

I was recently thinking about this short breath we call life and felt a great sense of urgency. Because tomorrow will happen. And then a decade will pass. And I want to look back knowing that I lived it purposefully. Not perfectly, but purposefully.

 

photo

 

So I pondered motherhood before my God. And a single question came to mind.

What do I want my kids to remember about me as a mom?

 
My answer? I want them to know that I loved them, loved their daddy, and loved my God.

 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35

 

Putting the answer that succinctly burdened me. Because some days I wonder if they truly know my love. Some days I wonder if they may think I love my phone or a clean house or my to-do list more than I love them. Even typing those words makes me nauseous.

Because I know me. I know all my failures and weaknesses. I know all the times I’ve overreacted in anger or crushed little hearts in the hurried of daily living.

But I’m also convinced — convicted — of the character of my God. I praise Him that in spite of me and my imperfect mothering, He woos and transforms and brings about His plan in the lives of my children. Such. grace.

Today’s a new day — the first one of the rest of our life. God will continue to strengthen His love through us as willing vessels, and we will continue to make mistakes, but the challenge is to look at today’s choices through the lens of love. The challenge is to move purposefully under His banner of grace.

 
How do you live purposefully as a mom in our very busy, loud world?
What practical choice can you make today to purposefully love those He has in your life? Click here to share.

 

About Lara
Speaker and writer, Lara Williams lives in central North Carolina with her husband and three young children. Click here to check out her blog.

God does some name calling

By | General | 7 Comments


 

It’s paradoxical. It’s twisted. It’s wild to think that the “righteous” often have to suffer at the hands of the “unrighteous.” It feels flat out unfair. But He says it’s going to happen as long as we’re on this planet. Why? It’s what refines and sheds us of us. It’s the gift that prunes and transforms us into holy vessels. Yep. Gift.

It’s the footprints that our Lord laid.

The fair thing would be for me (and you and you and you) to be condemned. That’s what we deserve. I mean, it’s not our world. It’s His. He sets the rules. His character is the standard — the only One worthy of reverencing. Yet we proudly walk around as if we own something or have the final say. We pick the fruit from the one tree He said to leave alone. The fair thing would be condemnation.

But Jesus. The righteous one died for the unrighteous ones. It’s radical. He takes our mess — our selfish, overreacting, hormonal mess — on Himself and puts His righteousness on us so that we can step boldly into the holy of holies. What in the world?!

Then He looks at those who dare to believe His provision and says, “My righteous one.” In spite of us, in light of us, still “righteous.”

We can’t do enough to earn that status. We can’t make enough casseroles or post enough spiritual quotes or wake up at o’dark thirty all month to have a quiet time in efforts to be called righteous. He names us that because of what He already accomplished. Let’s lay down that burden of perfectionism and rest in what He says, “righteous.” He speaks what’s true.

What did you glean from Peter’s words from the Kept study this week?

For When We’ve Been Inconsistent in Discipline

By | General | 13 Comments

This post was written by contributor Lara Williams.

Confession. Lately, we haven’t been consistent in discipline. And it’s caused…mayhem. OK, maybe that’s a strong word but really, our kids seem whiny-er and less obedient. Meanwhile we’re more frustrated and short-tempered. It’s felt messy.

But because God is awesome and love and wants what’s best for our family, He faithfully convicted my husband and I. He challenged us to get on the same page and start fresh. Because (just like alllll the books teach) consistency in parenting nurtures safety and trust in the home. And safety and trust breeds greater obedience.

 


photo credit

 

So here are a few questions God posed to our spirits for us to consider with Him.

 

What’s distracting you?

Often, lack of consistency births from living distracted. *Ahem.* Distractions invade. From emails to texts to phone calls to to-do lists — it’s so easy to lose perspective.

The solution to living distracted lives: pray that God would reveal distractions and then set clear boundaries. Also, restate priorities.

 

What’s going to be the most effective discipline strategy for your family?

I fail at charts. Seriously. I forget to add stickers or give that gold coin, hence inconsistency. Then my husband may go a totally different discipline route once he gets home from work, which means inconsistency between us as parents.

So we decided to use “currency.” Without any warnings, we simply impose or take away the thing (the currency) that most irritates each individual child at the moment of offense. There’s no hollering or negotiating. Just quick, reasonable, natural consequence to their behavior…all in love.

The solution to inconsistency: Determine in prayer what will be the primary discipline strategy in your home and, through His empowering, stick with it.

 

Who’s the One who ultimately opens their hearts to My ways?

I’ve written about this before, but we as parents will fail. We aren’t going to do it perfectly. So we simply confess and rest in God’s faithful forgiveness. Then we move forward in grace.

His grace doesn’t give us license to sin as parents. But it does relieve the pressure we often place upon ourselves to be a perfect mom. We won’t be. We can’t be. But thankfully our kids’ transformation into Christ followers doesn’t rest on our shoulders. He’s the One who opens eyes and moves hearts. Our call is to train (imperfectly) and believe Him to complete the work He begins.

The solution to guilt and unbelief: Make a list of Scriptures that point to God as the forgiver and the soul-healer. Repeat and believe when tempted to lay in a pool of guilt. Pray in faith for the salvation of our children.
 

To create the home environment that my husband and I want, we needed a revamping. We needed to get on the same discipline page and purposefully set boundaries on the things that can distract.

Then after we imperfectly follow through with the things God has led us to do, we keep on resting and resting in His great, matchless grace.
 

How goes your discipline strategy? Click here to chat about it in the comments.

About Lara
Speaker and writer, Lara Williams lives in central North Carolina with her husband and three young children. Click here to check out her blog.

Did you hear that it’s an election year?

By | General, HelloMornings Challenge | 14 Comments

Did you hear that it’s an election year? You know. Passions flaring. Stances taken. Insults slung. Promises made. Hope rising. Smirks flashing. You get the picture.

Don’t worry. This isn’t a political post. I just pray that we as “the church” truly take Peter’s words to heart.

 

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
1 Peter 2:13-15

 

Bottom line. God is in control…even over elections.

I think it’s wise and good to cast our vote at the polls. I think it’s wise to be slightly informed when we do. I think it’s wise for us to pray. But in the end, it’s vital to remember who ultimately reigns.

Regardless of what happens next month, God hasn’t fallen off His throne. And as His children that means we’re commanded to “fear not.” We’re instructed to “be subject for the Lord’s sake,” because when we spill His love and do good to the undeserving, we reflect Him. And the foolish are silenced. (His words, not mine.)

Vote. But then rest. He’s got (even) this.

What did you take away from Peter’s words this week? Let’s chat about it in the comments.


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HelloMornings

About Lara
Speaker and writer, Lara Williams lives in central North Carolina with her husband and three young children. Click here to check out her blog.

only the “necessary” trials

By | General, Study the Bible | 10 Comments

Seriously girls. This one will preach. I mean, really preach. Because life. is. hard.

You ready? If we are His, He will only allow the trials into our lives that are “necessary.” Girl, you crazy. No really. Look at what Peter says…

 

In this (gospel) you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-7

 

(Be honest. Did you read or just skim that blockquote?)

If. Necessary!

I bank on this one, girls. I have to because our world throws too much blech at us. But just think, as His daughters, the enemies of God have to go through the Father to get to His sons and daughters. The enemy can’t do whatever he wants in our lives! (Remember Job?)

If we are His, then we can believe that the trial we’re walking isn’t arbitrary. It isn’t purposeless. But that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt.

Girls, some of the things that happen on this planet while we’re sojourning to our “rightful” place in Christ will grieve us. That word means “heaviness; to cause sorrow.” Some trials will feel like a weight; but they are not without purpose!

 

Love Letter
flickr photo credit

 

Dare I even take it a step further and suggest that the trial is a gift. I say that with a clenched jaw considering a personal trial I am currently treading through. The trial is a gift because we have to fully depend on the sufficiency of our God; and nothing in this life is sweeter than a firm faith in our Lord.

We are not at the mercy of the enemy’s schemes. The trials we face aren’t purposeless. As His daughters we will only go through that which He — the sovereign, all-knowing, lavishly-loving God — deems necessary. Nothing more. Nothing less. I’m telling you. That’ll preach.

For those doing the “Kept” study, what did you glean from this week’s look at Peter?

Let’s chat about it in the comments.

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HelloMornings

About Lara
Speaker and writer, Lara Williams lives in central North Carolina with her husband and three young children. Click here to check out her blog.

The Perspective That Changes Everything In Motherhood

By | General, Get Inspired | 13 Comments

This post was written by contributor Lara Williams.

There’s. Just. So. Much. So many papers. So many events. So many appointments. So many lost shoes and lost teeth. And lost innocence. So many meals to plan. So many words to speak. There’s just so much to do. Which is why I need a continual, purposeful shift in perspective.

We’re just passing through on this earth. We’re here, literally, for a vapor of time and so are our kids. But here’s the really amazing part. The things we do and the things we impress upon our kids in this short life can have eternal effects. That’ll light a fire in me as a mom.

 


photo credit

It’s easy to ride the waves of life and get sucked into the abyss of “doing” only to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. But our number one calling as a mom is do an eternal work. Our number one calling is to train up our kids in the ways of God’s unwavering, all-consuming love; everything else is peripheral.

So I have to start here and camp out here. And when I leave for a while to tend to the dailiness of life, I have to return here. Because I want — I need! — to move through today with an eternal perspective.

It affects how I discipline. It affects how I spend my time. It affects my priorities. It affects their souls. It affects everything. Yes, we’ll fail. But God is bigger. He moves in spite of us.

Today the challenge is that we start with the best perspective — the eternal perspective. This 4 minute and 19 second video of Francis Chan will help. It’ll light that mama-fire.

 

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How could an eternal perspective change your own mothering style these days?
How can we keep an eternal perspective? Click here to join the discussion.

About Lara
Speaker and writer, Lara Williams lives in central North Carolina with her husband and three young children. Click here to check out her blog.

For When We’re Desperate For His Grace…Again

By | General, HelloMornings Challenge, Study the Bible | 9 Comments

Some days — lots of days — my head hits the pillow and I confess that same sin. It’s that thing I despise in myself — that response to my sweet yet trying kids, or that look I give, or that impatience I harbor. Pick one. Over and over in moments of this daily living choosing not to reflect His love.

That’s when I’m desperate for His grace. That’s when I realize — again — how needy I am for His mercy upon mercy upon mercy. Because left to me I chase after my feelings and rebel from the One who loves me most.

 

 

We’re a needy people. And I think that’s the point. That’s the realization that frees us. Once we truly grasp our depravity in light of His unmatched holiness, we’re ready to receive His grace.

I think that’s what Jesus was revealing to Peter through his three denials. Peter — this proud fisherman who swore he’d never leave his Lord — boldly denied three times, “I don’t know that Jesus.” He was needy for grace. But really, aren’t we all?

Every moment of every day He pours out His grace on His children. He nailed the punishment we deserve to a splintery cross. Now He says, “Whatever you do again today and again today and again today, my child, by faith in Christ Jesus, I call you righteous.”

 

Righteous.

 

That doesn’t mean we keep rebelling and denying. Rather we bow, humbled before a merciful God.

The depths of Christ’s grace transformed Peter’s life. The truth of God’s mercy overwhelmed him to the point where he confessed, “I cannot help but speak of my Lord. I can’t help it.”

Whatever mommy-sin we commit again today, Jesus already took that punishment. Whatever wife-sin we commit again today, He already took it. Whatever daughter-sister-friend-sin we commit again today, He already took it.

Girlfriend, that’s dance worthy.
How have you experienced His grace after grace in your own life?

For those doing the “Kept” study, what did you glean from this week’s look at Peter?

Let’s chat about it in the comments.

 

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HelloMornings

About Lara
Speaker and writer, Lara Williams lives in central North Carolina with her husband and three young children. Click here to check out her blog.