Puppy Names and the Grace of God

We tend to remember the times that God works in mysterious ways. Or, when He works in utterly amazing, miraculous ways.  But, it’s easy to miss when He works in the mundane moments of our everyday life….this is a story about one of those times.  

Our 13 year old daughter Amanda has been asking for a puppy every birthday and every Christmas for the last 3-5 years.  And my husband, Jeff, who for the past few years had declared that we were on the “pet-attrition” program had a change of heart and remembered that he had also declared (for many years) that if he ever got another dog, it would be a golden retriever. 

So, the decision was made and we surprised Amanda on Christmas morning, not with a puppy, but with a dog training book that let her know it was time to begin the hunt for the perfect pup. She was overwhelmed with emotion and excitement and let’s just say that we all shed a few tears the morning of December 25, 2018.

We spent a few days after Christmas searching online for a puppy.  We considered rescues and older puppies but ended up purchasing an 8 week old bundle of love from a local breeder. 

Choosing the puppy was actually a pretty easy process. Choosing a name for her, however, almost brought our family to blows. 

I’m embarrassed to admit how many conversations and how much time was spent amongst the family discussing potential names. 

Some of us were pretty low key about the name choice, agreeable to many of the potential names and open to almost all of them.  

Others of us……well, not so much.

Amanda and Jeff, in particular, had very strong feelings about the name. Both of them would choose a name and declare it as the “perfect” name for the puppy.  

Jeff decided “Maggie” was the perfect name.  

Amanda vetoed it. 

She liked the name “Reese” which Jeff vetoed. Apparently, he wanted a two-syllable name that ended with the “ie” sound.  

This went on over various names, with each of them “vetoing” the other’s favorite name over and over again.  Pride set in and it quickly became clear that the puppy’s name was going to require a hard-fought battle between these two. 

On Saturday morning, January 5, Amanda, her big sister and I took off to pick up this unnamed puppy from the breeder. My husband was out of town so he and Amanda debated the name over FaceTime for most of the car ride to and from the breeder’s home.  It appeared we would never have a name for this puppy. 

But, finally, a compromise was reached. They agreed on the name “Riley”….a name neither loved nor hated. By this time, the rest of us didn’t even care what we named her. We were just glad the fight was over.  

The girls and I brought “Riley” home and cared for her for two days before Jeff came back from a long road trip. Of course, as soon as he arrived, he wanted to see “Riley.” But the next item on his agenda was to find Amanda and have a little meeting with her.

“Hey, Amanda.  I’ve been thinking as I drove home today.  I’ve been really stubborn about the name for this puppy.  After all, you were the one who really wanted a puppy and you’ve been asking for one for a long time.  If it weren’t for you, we would not even have her. I’ve decided that YOU should be able to name this puppy whatever you want.”

The humility of my husband in that moment nearly brought me to tears.  But, what happened next is where I really saw the grace of God at work.  

My strong (and sometimes stubborn) 13 year old girl softened.  

Completely.

Her humble response was simply, “Dad, I don’t want to name her something you don’t like.” She continued, “I want to name her Reese, but you don’t like that name for her.”

Now, that is moment where I saw the grace of God at work.  

You see, I have this belief that’s been expressed perfectly by one of my favorite pastors….

“God’s got this thing rigged.”

I interpret his statement like this….

When we do things God’s way, it not only brings glory to Him but it’s good for us.  It makes life work – it doesn’t mean that life will be easy but it does mean we experience a little bit of His kingdom here on earth.

And that’s what I witnessed in that moment….by reaching out in humility, Jeff broke the vicious cycle of pride and selfishness that had developed in their conversation.  As soon as he stopped demanding his will, she relinquished hers as well.  It was a beautiful moment for sure.

Of course, he insisted on allowing her to name the puppy and that cute little puppy above is our little Reese. Her name is a constant reminder to me of how God works in the regular moments of our everyday life. 

Kim Melnick is a prayer warrior wannabe who encourages women to deepen their prayer life by praying Scripture. Her prayer journals can be found on Amazon.

How Do You Know God’s Will

Do you ever wonder about God’s will for your life? I think most of us have been there. We’ve pondered life changing decisions, unsure which direction God wants us to go. We’ve read books that promise to help us find His purpose for our lives. We’ve interpreted open doors and shut doors as “signs” from God and, most of us, have tacked those famous words on to the end of our prayers: “Please God….if it is your will!”

But, I am learning that the key to knowing God’s will is simply abiding in Him. And that abiding in Him is largely achieved by abiding in His Word.

I am a slow learner, but a few key experiences have been “fast forward” moments on this journey. The story that I share here is one that is memorable to me, but certainly does not represent a “method” or “formula” for finding the will of God. My hope is that it will simply point you to the goodness of God and inspire you to seek His word every day.

First, the backstory….

Years ago I read an amazing book called, “Three Little Words” by Ashley Rhodes Courter. This true story chronicles the struggles of a young woman who spent most of her childhood in foster care. In the book, Courter notes that nearly 200 people touched her case during her time in the foster system. She speaks most highly of the volunteer child advocates assigned to her case and even credits one of them for getting her out of an abusive foster home and helping her to find a permanent family.

As a sidenote, these child advocates (also known as CASAs or Guardian ad-Litems) are typically the only unpaid volunteers in the foster care system. And, they have the only role that is solely dedicated to seeking out the best interests of the child.

As soon as I completed the book, I felt a nudge to advocate for foster children.

A few days passed. I began to doubt the nudge. Maybe it was just guilt that was nudging me. I was unsure.

But, I decided to explore the possibility. I found information for my state and filled out an online interest form. As I learned of the preparatory work involved (interviews, background checks and 30 hours of training) my doubts grew deeper. My feet got cold.

At the time, I was homeschooling 4 kids and caring for my elderly mother who lived with us and who was in terrible health. It just didn’t make sense to add one more thing to my life. But yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should do this. I asked for prayer from our Community Group. A wise friend spoke up and reminded me that if God was calling me to do this, He would confirm it in His Word.

Well, the very next morning, my already scheduled bible reading plan took me to Psalm 82. Verses 2-4 jumped off the pages of my Bible.

“How long will you hand down unjust decisions
by favoring the wicked?
Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
Rescue the poor and helpless;
deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”

I was overwhelmed. Give justice to the orphan. Uphold the rights of the destitute. Rescue the helpless. In those early morning moments, I knew that I would be living in disobedience to God if I did not pursue this prompting. God’s Word had, indeed, confirmed His will.

Now, one thing I want to point out – this was not a situation where I sat down with my Bible and demanded that God give me a word. Like I said, this was my “already scheduled” reading for the day. God was gracious in his sovereign rule to make that day the day I would land on Psalm 82. It’s not always so clear. But, abiding in His word does make countless other decisions clear every day.

Proverbs 3:5-6 has been one of my most favorite passages for as long as I can remember and I believe it speaks to this “abiding” as well.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

The way I see it, you can’t really trust Him unless you know Him. And, the best way to know Him is through His Word. Once you know Him, really know Him, you will care deeply to acknowledge or, as some versions say, submit to Him. The promise of a life lived this way is clear….He will make your path straight. You will know how to live for Him so you will know His will.

So, tell me, how do you find God’s will?

The Praying Through Scripture prayer journal can help in your journey to abide in God’s Word. 

 

 

How Will You Pray in 2019

The beginning of a new year is a great time to jump-start your prayer life, but let’s face it, most of us struggle to consistently spend time in prayer. We know we should. We even want to. But, oftentimes, even when we try, we find our prayer time to be frustrating.

We feel distracted.

We struggle for words.

We fall asleep.

Developing an effective prayer life requires more than desire. It requires intention and it requires discipline. Here are a few steps to upgrade your prayer life!

Have a plan. Don’t count on a great prayer life just happening. Decide ahead of time where and when you will pray. Are mornings or evenings better for you? Where can you go to minimize distractions? Do you like to be inside in your favorite chair? Or, would you prefer to be outside with the sounds of Creation reminding you of God’s divine nature?

Make sure your plan includes God’s word. It’s been said that the secret to a successful prayer life is to make God’s will your want – then ask for whatever you want! There is no better place to find God’s will than in His word. While we can learn about God from Creation and through fellowship with other believers, to truly dive deeply into the nature of God, you must learn about Him from His word. So, what will you read/study/pray back to God?

Organize your prayers. For some, this may be simply be a plan in your head regarding who/what you pray for on certain days. For others, a calendar or notebook scheduling various prayer topics on certain days may be preferred. One creative friend of mine maintains a bulletin board with photos/images to remind her of those people and situations she wants to regularly bring to God in prayer.

Record your prayers. This is a practice you will not regret. When we look back on our recorded prayers, we find clarity in seeing God that is at work around us. Without a record of prayer, we are more prone to miss the opportunity to be awed by what He is doing in and around us! Seeing His hand at work builds our faith in unimaginable ways!

Meditate on God’s word. When we meditate or memorize God’s word in our prayer time, we can carry what we know to be true about God from His word with us all day long. As we encounter the inevitable trials of the day, our hearts and minds can more easily be comforted and reassured with His words. When doubts set in our faith can more easily be strengthened. And, in our most joyous moments, our praise can more easily be pointed heavenward.

Praying Through Scripture gives women a tool to develop an effective prayer life. Its unique advantage is that is based solely on God’s word. This book will teach you to pray in a way that honors God and His word. It will encourage you to record your prayers in the beautiful journal space. And, it will teach you to memorize God’s word and, in doing so, renew your mind and transform your life.

 

 

What’s Your Waking Verse?

For years, my mission statement has been, “Learning it. Living it. Sharing it.” Those words express how I aim to do life. They are the heartbeat behind the prayer journal I published last year and behind every blog I write.

Well, I learned something yesterday, I’ve lived it for just a few hours, but I believe it’s a powerful practice and I’m ready to share.

So, here we go….

Yesterday morning, I was challenged by a friend’s Facebook post to consider choosing what she called a “Waking Verse.” It’s a pretty simple idea.  Choose a verse from the Bible and train yourself to make that verse your waking thought.

I loved it!

I knew immediately the verse I would choose.  It’s one that causes my heart to rejoice and praise God in good times but one that gives me hope in the dark moments of life as well. It’s a verse that comforts me by reminding me that I am not in control but He is and His power is so much greater than I can imagine.

I chose Ephesians 3:20-21. 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 

I decided that if this were to be my Waking Verse, it would need to be the screensaver on my phone. Like most of us, my phone is also my alarm clock and it’s the first thing I see each morning when I wake up. I knew that clearing my home screen of everything except this verse was the surest way to make it my waking thought.

So, here’s how it went down this morning.  My alarm was set for 6:30am but, as is often the case, I woke up quite a bit earlier.  I grabbed my phone to check the time…

4:30am.  Ugh! 

Now, when this happens, my mind and heart start racing with thoughts of how much more rest I need, the upcoming demands of the day and every difficult situation currently faced by me or someone I love. Oftentimes, these thoughts keep me awake, while I toss and turn until I finally relent and just get up.

But today was different.As I grabbed my phone to check the time, I was reminded of my Waking Verse. I paused and read it. Yep, at 4:30am.

As the anxious thoughts crept in, I repeated the verse in my head.  I was reminded that He has the power over every situation that my loved ones and I face.  I was reminded that I am not in control but He is.  I remembered how many times in the past, He has already done more than I could ask or imagine.  And, I remembered how He does it all for His glory!

In other words, I gave every anxious thought back to Him.  I praised Him for His power over each one.

And, then, I fell into a deep and peaceful sleep until 6:30am.

So, I challenge you to choose your Waking Verse. Please let me know what you choose and how it changes your day.

The Beauty of Community and Why it Matters

I hate weeding and I’m always amazed at how quickly a patch of weeds can overrun an empty space in my garden.  After many years of fighting weeds in the sunshine state, where everything green grows all year, I’ve learned that the best way to keep the weeds from taking over in my garden is to simply crowd them out with beautiful flowers.  You see, I’ve learned that the weeds won’t grow where healthy plants are growing tightly together. 

I believe this same truth applies to our spiritual lives.  I believe that our brothers and sisters in Christ, when planted tightly around us in authentic community, work to keep out the spiritual weeds that are prone to grow when we try to “go it alone.”

I am so grateful that God did not design us to be lone rangers in this life. He created us, yes, for fellowship with him but also for fellowship here on earth with other imperfect humans who need us as much as we need them.

These “flowers” that fight the spiritual weeds in my world are a small group of  believers who are living out this journey with me. I meet at least weekly with these friends who love me, who speak truth to me and who allow me to speak truth into their lives as well.  These sisters and brothers in Christ, each in their own way, help to crowd out the unwanted weeds growing in my life….

When I mention the weeds of discouragement taking root in my heart, these friends encourage and pray for me.

When I speak of the weeds of doubt sprouting in my mind, they inspire me with their strong faith.

When I confess weeds of sin germinating in my life, these friends remind me of who I am in Christ, remind me of his grace and inspire me to live rightly.

And, when I express weeds of grief growing in my heart, these friends mourn with me, serve me and remind me of God’s goodness.

I haven’t always had friendships like this in my life.  It doesn’t come naturally.  I have prayed for friends….wise friends, godly friends and God has provided.  But, I also have learned that to have (and to be) this kind of friend requires vulnerability.  It means showing up and sharing honestly about the hurts, fears and struggles of my life and how they are impacting my soul.  This is not easy, but I am learning that it’s worth it.

It’s worth it because vulnerability reveals our need for the Gospel and it builds intimacy in our relationships. It knits us together with others and, when we build community that allows vulnerability, we are able to better practice the love and good works that the author of Hebrews calls us to in this verse. 

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Lord, thank you for that we don’t have to live out this life alone.  Thank you for the gift of community.  Thank you for those you place around us who encourage us in love and good works.  Help us not to give up on each other or on the time we spend together but help us to continue to spur each other on….for our good and for your glory!

If you’d like to learn more about praying scripture, check out our prayer journals. 

 

 

Resting in God

I remember, as a young believer in my 30s, asking advice from a pastor who was many years my elder.  I don’t remember the details of the problem I was confronting, but I have never forgotten his solution.  “Just rest in Him, Kim.  Rest in Him.”

I remember thinking (but not saying), “What in the world does that mean?” His answer confused me.  What did it mean to rest? I was a young mom with three children under 3 and, to be honest, I didn’t feel that  any type of “resting” was in the realm of possibility at that time.

Many years have passed since that conversation.  Those three young children are now in college, one more has come along and she’s almost in high school.  I still struggle with resting, but I have begun to understand what that wise pastor meant when he told me to rest in God.

Resting in God is working at the things I know He has called me to do do while trusting that He will do the things only He can do.

So, “resting in him” does involve some “work.”

Resting requires the work of knowing God, which means spending time with Him….in His word and with His people. If we don’t look to His word to learn who He is, we risk creating a God of our own design.  And, if we don’t spend time with His people, our view of who God is, will be limited.

Resting also requires the work of trusting God.  In order to trust Him, we must believe that He loves us, that He is good and that His ways are always perfect.  This isn’t always easy and the more time we spend getting to know God, the easier this becomes.

Finally, resting means obeying God.  And, this is where God has this thing rigged.  Because, when we work to know Him and we begin to trust Him, we begin to see the ways that He shows up and does what only He can do.  As we work, He does a work in us….He gives us the ability to obey or, as Paul says so beautifully….”He gives us the desire and power to do what pleases Him.”

Since that conversation with my pastor, I have grown in my understanding of what it means to “rest” in Him, however, that doesn’t mean I’ve perfected it.  God gives me situations every day that offer me the opportunity to rest in Him or not.  Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes I fail.  

But, what I’ve learned, is that….

Resting in Him brings freedom.  

Resting in Him means I worry less and trust more.

Resting in Him means I’m less inclined to manipulate people and situations when things don’t go my way.  

So, let’s ask God for an increasing ability to rest in Him.  Let’s work hard to show the result of our salvation as we obey God, knowing all the while that He is working in us.

Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.  Philippians 2:12b-13

To begin your journey of praying through Scripture, check out our prayer journals.

Courageous or Brave?

Our family recently had an incredible experience white-water rafting on the Ocoee River.  I love what the photographer managed to capture in this photo….a moment of pure exhilaration and fun for each of us!  When I look at myself in this picture, I see a woman who looks brave and loves adventure.  But, the thing about photos is that they only capture a moment.  This photo doesn’t tell you that, 90 minutes earlier, I was in full blown panic. 

The morning started out just fine.  We arrived at the outfitter station on time and made sure all of our waivers were signed. We then moved outside to collect our rafting gear and to hear the obligatory “safety” meeting before we left.

That’s when the trouble started….

We learned, among other things, how not to drown, what to do if we fell out, what to do if the boat flipped and how to handle ourselves if caught in a current or, worse, caught in a “washing machine” rapid.  

We also learned how to pull crew members, who fell out, back into the raft. This was communicated in a way that implied that this skill would most definitely be needed. 

No-one around me appeared concerned.

I, on the other hand, was terrified.  

To add to my fears, I suddenly remembered a couple of very scary white-water stories I had heard from family members. These stories included near-death experiences, rafters being pulled into the boat unresponsive and in shock, along with stories of bruised and battered bodies that took weeks to heal. 

By the time we got on the bus to head up river, I was so scared that I was experiencing heart palpitations.  My husband asked what was wrong.  I confessed my fear and stated that I thought I would just skip the trip.  He tried to talk me down, but my fears would not subside.

When we arrived at the “put-in” location, I still wasn’t sure what to do so I sought out our guide.  I shared that, while my family was super excited about all of us rafting together, I was scared to death and unsure that I would even go.  He offered me a bit of assurance about the trip and, while my heart was still pounding with fear, I made the decision to go so that I could share this experience with my family.

By the time this picture was taken, we had maneuvered through a few rapids and I was truly enjoying the journey.  I was so thankful I had chosen to take this adventure in spite of my fears!

The whole experience reminded me of God’s call for me (for us) to be courageous spiritually.  I find it interesting that we are called to be courageous, not brave.  These words, that we so often use interchangeably, actually imply things that are quite different.

Bravery is an ability to confront danger and/or pain without experiencing fear.  It implies a feeling of someone who is bold and daring.  A brave person may feel or appear larger than his circumstances even when he is not. 

But, courage is different.  Courage is an ability to confront danger and/or pain in spite of fear.  The courageous person takes action even though he is scared and feels small. A courageous person acts, not because he feels capable, but because of a belief that the struggle is worth it. 

So, when God calls us to be courageous as we live for Him, we have a choice.  We can give in to the fear that we may naturally feel.  Or, we can make a willful decision to act in spite of our feelings because we have faith that whatever God has called us to is worth it. 

So my prayer today is rooted in these words that Paul penned to the Corinthian church….

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Lord, would you strengthen my faith today? Help me to stand firm in you and help me to do all that you have called me to do.  Would you equip me to be strong and courageous in spite of my fears and inabilities? I believe that your Kingdom is worth the struggle. And, Lord, would you give me the grace to do everything with love?

Check out our Praying Through Scripture Prayer Journals to learn more about praying scripture!

Give Me All You’ve Got!

Give Me All You’ve Got!

On a recent vacation, our family rented a pontoon boat on a crystal clear lake surrounded by the beautiful North Carolina mountains.  We added a little excitement to the experience by renting a tube to take the kids on some wild rides.  The workers at the marina warned us to be careful of the many tree limbs floating in the water so, as my husband acted as Captain, our sons took their spots at the front of the boat to help their dad keep an eye out for any danger in our path. My place was at the back of the boat where I could throw out the rope and keep an eye on the tube riders.  

My girls jumped out of the boat and onto the tube, eager for the experience.  My husband took it easy on them at first, but then began the inevitable challenge of trying to toss them off of the tube. He increased the throttle, took the boat to full speed and began zig-zagging across the waters.  The girls shrieked in with the excitement as they held on to the rope.  When we took a break, one of them spoke up and said, “Don’t go easy on us, Dad.  I want you to give us all you’ve got.” 

Her overwhelming trust struck me. She was not concerned with floating logs or any other possible danger or injury.  She trusted her father to take her on the adventure that he’d planned for her.  From her spot, behind the boat, she could not see what was coming and she didn’t know what she might experience, but she trusted her dad to give her the ride of her life.

I was convicted of my own lack of trust in my Heavenly Father. So often, I want Him to show me the road ahead so that I can give my approval.  I want a step-by-step plan with some nice guardrails and guarantees along the way. I want to avoid the inevitable (and sovereignly planned) bumps and detours because they remind me that I’m not really in control. 

I realized, in that moment, how often I trust ME over HIM even though His word tells me to trust Him and not to rely on my limited knowledge. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

In that moment I also realized how often I forget that all things in this life, will work for my good and His glory.  And, “all things” includes the bumps and detours, the scary moments and the times I realize just how little control I have.  

And we know that, in all things, God works for the good of this who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

So, my prayer is this…..

Lord, help me to trust you over me. Help me to remember, day by day, that your understanding is good and perfect and that mine is so limited.  Help me to remember that you work ALL things for my good.  Help me to be able to say, “Give me all you got” because I know that a life lived fully trusting in you is the greatest adventure I will ever take. 

To begin your journey of praying through Scripture, check out our prayer journals.

Intentional Living

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16

Oftentimes, when my husband and I spend a morning working in our garden, I find myself looking at the yards surrounding the lake on which we live.  I’m always struck by the large number of neighbors who have nothing but grass in their backyard….no flower beds, no trees, no shrubs.  Truth be told, sometimes I’m a little envious of their carefree backyards.  But, when I survey the beauty of the blooming flowers and shrubs in our garden and when I stop to pay attention to the bees, hummingbirds and butterflies that thrive in our little sanctuary, I am grateful for the intentional time and energy we have spent to create a place that celebrates the beauty of God’s creation.

While it takes a bit of intentional time and energy to create a garden, it takes a lifetime of intentional time and energy to follow the Lord. Ephesians 5:15-16 instructs us to live carefully in this life.  We don’t have to be intentional to be influenced by the world and the culture around us – we are surrounded by it!  But, if we want to allow Christ to create a life of beauty in us, we must carefully choose how we spend our time and our treasures.  

Praise God for his glorious grace in your life and ask Him to reveal one way you can live intentionally for Him today.

The Praying Through Scripture journal is a great way to encounter God’s word each day.  Filled with Scripture, prayer prompts, journaling space and even a learning device to help you memorize God’s word, it is a tool that will help you deepen your walk with the Lord.

Rooted in Love

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. Ephesians 3:17

My husband and I recently decided to improve the landscape of a small area of our yard that contained a beautiful, 15 year-old oak tree. We were excited to plant various ferns and shade-loving flowers, however our plans were quickly foiled as we tried to dig the holes necessary to put even the smallest potted plant in the ground. You see this oak tree had grown strong and its root was system was pervasive. Its roots had spread deep and wide under the ground and we were unable to break through to plant our shade garden.

God wants us to root ourselves in Him in much the same way. He wants us to experience his love deeply and fully and allow ourselves to grow in it. He wants it to spread through us so that it impacts every bit of who we are and what we do. And, when we allow His love to root deeply in our lives, we are strong in Him and He is glorified in us.

Take a moment today to meditate on the great love of God for you in Christ Jesus and pray that you would root yourself firmly and deeply in His love.

The Praying Through Scripture journal is a great way to encounter God’s word each day.  Filled with Scripture, prayer prompts, journaling space and even a learning device to help you memorize God’s word, it is a tool that will help you deepen your walk with the Lord.